www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Duke - Page 2 - 2001
and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!" - Edwin Markham
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 25, 2001
The Charlotte Observer continues its love/hate relationship with Duke Energy. It published some fluff articles and Duke was happy. Then it hit Duke with an article that proved the price gouging allegations, which had been denied. It did take it easy on Duke by giving the article a namby-pamby title: “Duke Calif. rates spike in emergency.”
It soothed Duke with another fluff article or two and hit Duke again. It noted that Duke, and others, could not push through the arena package in Charlotte, North Carolina.
It consoled Duke by printing a long article by Mike Tuckman, selling the case for re-licensing Duke’s nuclear plants. The article was nothing but an advertisement for Duke Energy.
Then – POW - The Observer hit Duke with the article about three former employees testifying that energy prices were manipulated in California. As Duke was reeling from that one, they smacked them hard again. This time with an article that questions Duke’s ethics, regarding a relationship with a California public official.
It is time for a few more fluff articles about Duke Energy – before The Observer sucker punches them again. Some may call this balanced reporting; and perhaps it is. For each kiss on the cheek that Duke receives, The Observer balances it out with a kick to the seat of the pants.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 17, 2001
Dow Jones has been tipped off that certain energy companies are considering selling their California plants. “Duke Energy (DUK) has discussed the possibility of a sale with at least one energy company and the state of California, according to a source.”
The reporters knew that to get a straight answer they needed to go to the source; they called Duke Energy. Duke gave an answer - and here it is: “Duke neither confirmed nor denied that it has explored a sale of its plants in northern California.”
If you have had any experience reading Duke’s cryptic messages, you know exactly what that means.
“Duke also said it can't commit to going forward with its Morro Bay plant expansion even if it gets the necessary permits, because of uncertainty created by legislation proposing a windfall profits tax on power producers and another supporting a state takeover of power plants.”
How many times has Duke schemed to grab a pot of gold, only to end up with a bucket of iron pyrite? Duke plotted for over a decade to dominate the world in the deregulated energy market. Now it is doing it and taking in money as never before. But it is just not like Duke thought it would be. Duke has stepped into every bear trap, slipped on every banana peel, and fell into each cactus along the way.
Duke’s main stock in trade is “rolling over” people – employees, ratepayers. Only too late do they realize that people are seldom defenseless. The pattern is: Duke makes a windfall gain initially, but later a price is paid, and Duke is left with egg on its face. A price will be paid for the California shenanigans; how much remains to be seen. Duke took significant money from the employee’s pension fund. The jury is still out on that one, but they have already paid the price of lost trust and credibility.
Article on another Duke California power plant:
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 16, 2001
For the last lustrum, Duke Energy has been riding on the reputation of honorable people from the past. Employees have been aware, and the public is becoming aware, of the great ethics shift within the company. The great pictures painted by the new regime, are painted with water colors that tend to wash away rapidly. People hear Duke’s words and watch the following actions. Often they are light years apart. People can only be fooled for so long.
The local newspaper is not covering for Duke. The employees, who have taken huge pension losses, are not covering for Duke. According to the L. A. Times, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) is considering whether to dump Duke stock.
The Times also pointed out that even those who have prospered with energy stocks, do not condone the current greed. Representative Jane Harman owns energy stock. “‘I have an extremely aggressive position on price-gouging,’ Harman said, noting she has co-sponsored a bill to stop it.”
Senator Barbara Boxer is an energy stock trader. “The records for Boxer, who has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the power industry, show a flurry of profitable trades throughout 2000 in such stocks as Duke Energy Corp., Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. and El Paso Energy Corp.”
Everything in Duke’s bag of tricks is about worn out. People are seeing through the smoke bombs; they are discounting the rhetoric. Duke is being exposed more each day. What will it try next? Who will trust Duke?
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 15, 2001
It is amazing how the news can be spun from one extreme to the other in just a few days. June 11, Dow Jones published “Calif Fails To Find Illegal Acts By Generators.” “Unnamed sources” for this article implied that the energy companies were merely unethical: “How do you sue someone for being unethical…”
What a difference a few days can make. June 14, The Charlotte Observer broke a story without a speck of fluff in it – that the case against Duke Energy, and others, would be brought before a grand jury for possible criminal charges! Attorney General Bill Lockyer intends to determine if fraud has been committed.
The Observer would never publish such a story if they did not have the goods. It had the goods when it recently investigated and proved that Duke had price gouged the California customers. It had the goods in 1988 when it broke the story of Duke’s secret, impending massive layoff. The Observer is content to print fluff articles about Duke Energy - as long as it keep its nose clean. But when Duke resorts to nefarious activities, The Observer does not cover for Duke.
Click the link below to read the article:
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 12, 2001
The Charlotte Observer does not print solely fluff about Duke Energy. Its article about the overwhelming rejection of the $342 million arena package in Charlotte, North Carolina demonstrates this. Charlotte’s leadership, including Duke Energy, was questioned.
“One by one, Charlotte's business, political and civic leaders lined up in support of the uptown arena package. Turns out they were lining up in front of a firing squad.”
“Traditionally, Charlotte has found direction from elected officials or from business or community leaders. Now, says director Bill McCoy of UNCCharlotte's Urban Institute, ‘There is a vacuum and we haven't figured out who's going to fill that.’"
"‘The new leadership isn't like the old leadership,’ says McCoy. ‘It doesn't carry the force it did when (Bank of America CEO) Hugh McColl, (First Union CEO) Ed Crutchfield, (Duke Power CEO) Bill Lee and so forth were the leaders. The new leadership doesn't have much force of will behind it.’"
Duke Energy really put the hard sell on the arena. Executives and board members solicited employees and the public for arena votes. They appealed on Duke’s intranet and in the media, including The Observer. Duke fell flat on its face. Evidently employees and the public do not care how Duke Energy executives and board members vote. Duke Energy, with all its arrogance, could not steam-roll the arena plan. People do not need those who cannot even run a pension plan, without bungling it, telling them how to vote!
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 9, 2001
Employees in California are losing money because of illegally withheld overtime pay, according to the L. A. Times. These overtime victims are bringing multi-million dollar, class action lawsuits against corporations - and winning!
Recently, Rite Aid Corp. settled for $25 Million and U-Haul Co. settled for $7.5 million, pending court approval.
The scam is to classify a worker in a position that does not require overtime, regardless of the employee’s actual duties. "There's a very common misconception that if someone is paid a salary, then they are not entitled to overtime, which is just simply not the case," said Larry J. Shapiro, an employment law expert. ‘The key is what are their duties?’"
The laws will vary from state to state, but it is doubtful that overtime abuse is limited to California. Duke Energy has pockets of “exempt” employees everywhere. They are exempt from the benefits and protections of wage laws.
Employees have accepted promotions to exempt, higher salaried positions and have actually made less money annually, due to loss of overtime. All they have to show for their “promotion” is their title and perceived prestige. Teller windows or ATM’s will not accept either as deposits.
Many movements start on the west coast and sweep toward the east coast. Employees in California are wising up about overtime pay. Perhaps other workers will as well.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 8, 2001
The above title is offered as a counter-spin to the title of a recent California energy story.
The San Francisco Chronicle published a great article about Duke Energy buying off the environmentalists protesting the expansion of the Moss Landing power plant. But the title seemed to place all “blame” on the protestors: “Activists accused of favoring cash over mission at Moss Landing.”
While there is apparently nothing illegal about the exchange of money, the environmentalists are painted as tainted for accepting the money, but Duke gets off clean for offering it.
It does take two to tango. Can the one who accepts money be more “guilty” than the one who offers it?
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 7, 2001
The New York Times reports that Duke Energy, and other power companies, have formed a consortium to fend off federal clean-air lawsuits. They have hired the fund-raising chief for Republicans in the Senate.
Haley Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is a partner in a lobbying firm.
“In an interview, Mr. Barbour said there was no conflict between his lobbying work and his fund-raising duties.”
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 6, 2001
The L. A. Times announced that Duke Energy, and others, will be subpoenaed for the documents relating to energy trading in California. When the price gouging charges first appeared, Duke was all “Goody Two-Shoes.” It avowed that it was innocent and welcomed a full investigation. While attempting to appear outraged at the price gouging charges, Duke tried to stifle the investigations and lawsuits, under the board. That blew up in Duke's face. So now, Duke is hoarding all the trading data, just like they are hoarding the employee’s pension money.
Prepare the subpoenas; the only way to get information out of Duke is to blast it out. Duke was not very forthcoming with the data of how much pension money the employees lost either. Private attorneys were not successful in getting all the data. It took the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pry the data loose from Duke’s grip. Federal attorneys in Washington are now analyzing the data. The age discrimination charges are still under investigation. If you have not talked with the an EEOC investigator, maybe it is time you did.
The cat and mouse scenario is getting almost predictable:
Those who do not wish to play Duke’s game are not obligated to do so. There is always another option – to lose all by default. Make a choice that you can live with.
Click the link below to read the L. A. Times article:
The Charlotte Observer - June 4, 2001
Letter to the Editor
Hooray and thanks to Stella Hopkins and Peter Wallsten for "Duke Calif. rates spike in emergency" (June 1).
As a San Diego resident (soon to be living in Boone), I have experienced brownouts as well as power bills four times those of a year ago. The rest of the country may see us a whiners, but stories such as this one help readers understand the problem.
Sure, California blew it. We built no plants for 15 years and misjudged demand. And your fellow Americans in California can only urge you to say no any form of deregulation in North Carolina.
ROBERT G. BROWN
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 4, 2001
A lot of grief can be avoided by working knowledge of history. Even recent history can be very valuable. The history of electric deregulation is being made on a daily basis. Ignore the warnings at your peril.
California and New York had high electric rates and thought that deregulation would have to help them – wrong. They did not like the frying pan, but are finding the deregulation fire to be unbearable.
If deregulation is proving to be a disaster in places that thought things could not get worse, is it something that you really want? States that enjoy low, regulated rates would be well served to keep what they have.
The L. A. Times reports on the problems that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has had trying to deal with deregulation. Their efforts have been less than stellar. Read the article and see what could happen to your electric rates. See how unstoppable deregulation is once it gets started. See who really profits from it.
The players that wanted deregulation steam-rolled it through. The momentum just could not be stopped. As often happens, a few people were rewarded handsomely; the majority are still suffering.
Duke Energy has proven that it will persecute the many to enrich a few when it converted the pension to a cash balance plan. While the employees suffer, the top executives enjoy unprecedented spoils. While the ratepayers in California suffer, Duke is enjoying record profits. If anyone should think that deregulation can be a win/win situation and be beneficial to all, they have not been paying attention to recent history!
The less the ratepayers (or employees) have Duke Energy tampering with the rules, the better off they will be. And rest assured, Duke will be tampering with the deregulation rules. When the deregulation rules are being contemplated, Duke’s CEO will be right there twisting, shaping, and influencing each decision. He knows how to milk every dime out of the situation; the legislators do not. They will be putty in his hands. This is his game, not theirs. They cannot beat him at his own game. The ratepayers will effectively have zero representation. If the legislators play deregulation with Duke’s CEO, he will beat them - and the ratepayers.
Retired Duke employees would then have a pitiful pension and astronomical electric rates. Keep the lion caged, lest we all be devoured!
The link below is to the mentioned article:
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 3, 2001
“Duke Energy Confirms Price Gouging” is the title of the Yahoo News article that was sent to all on the e-mail list. It is essentially the same story that was published by The Charlotte Observer, but with a much more direct title. This title leaves nothing to the imagination as to what the story is about.
The Charlotte Observer gets the credit for proving what many had suspected, but it waffled by giving the story a mealy-mouthed title: “Duke Calif. rates spike in emergency.” The Observer had the goods, but did not package them very well. So goes the love/hate relationship between Duke Energy and The Charlotte Observer. They have been known to scratch each other’s back from time to time. Duke get tons of free publicity from The Observer, sometimes running for pages, complete with color photographs. Duke gets free publicity and The Observer gets filler copy for dull news days.
Duke Energy likes to dominate everyone completely. But Duke has not been able to fully dominate The Observer. The paper blasted Duke hard with “Living in the Nuclear Shadow.” This series exposed the impossibility of evacuating the McGuire Nuclear Station area quickly, due to over development. That situation will only get worse. How many times have you ever seen buildings bulldozed and trees planted in their place?
After this episode, The Observer may feel the need to print a few fluffy articles, praising Duke Energy. But there will be more spats to come, between Duke Energy and The Charlotte Observer.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - June 2, 2001
The Charlotte Observer published a revealing story about the Duke Energy California deregulation fiasco. One can read it and observe Duke’s standard modus operandi.
Duke has tenaciously guarded the California power sales data, the whole time screaming that they had nothing to hide. When the newspaper analyzed Duke’s quarterly report, errors were found. THEN, Duke admitted errors.
It is an old tactic. If one’s hand is found in the cookie jar, deny, deny, deny. If everyone can be bluffed off with feigned indignation, well and good. If a preponderance of evidence proves that said hand was, in fact, in the cookie jar, begrudgingly admit it, with as many weasel words and leaky language as possible.
It seem the facts of the power sales are not exactly what Duke had claimed. And, Duke is not letting out any more data that it has to.
Duke’s attempt to thwart the California lawsuits and investigations was covert until others made it public. THEN, Duke made it public. It is the same game. Deny, deny, deny. If caught, say: “Oh, you mean this smoking gun.”
Another CEO in New York has said: "I don't believe there is a lot of gouging taking place." “Lot” is a pretty big weasel word. Now, someone from Duke has said: "On average, Duke's prices are not `gouging prices,'" “On average” can conceal a lot of mischief!
Read the story for yourself by clicking the link below:
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 30, 2001
The Russian government has a reputation for dealing with political dissidents by subjecting them to “psychiatric treatment.” Hey, if they don’t go along with the program, then they must be crazy! Who knows? Maybe a little electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock), or perhaps a frontal lobotomy will get the chap’s mind right. At any rate, while they are being “treated,” they will not be causing any problems for the government. And, if they should happen not to survive the treatment, then they will never cause any more problems!
You just knew that others would have to pick up on this method, and they have. American corporations are now using psychiatric fitness-for-duty exams as a method of reprisal against workers who question the program.
Peter Downs exposes this scam in “Giving Workers the Treatment,” published in The Progressive.
In one example, a Ford Motor Company employee “complained that he could not do his job because so many of his bosses were taking the necessary equipment out of the plant to work on their homes or personal businesses. The next day, the plant director of human resources invoked a Ford program for combating workplace violence to bar Crosty from the factory and ordered him to see a company-paid psychiatrist or lose his job.” The company put his name on a bulletin board as fired for “psychiatric reasons.” He was reinstated after four other psychiatrists cleared him.
A Ford employee was sent to a psychiatrist after filing a sexual harassment complaint. She was later fired.
Another Ford employee was referred to a psychiatrist because she had filed grievances. She refused to go, and was fired.
Emory University ordered a doctor to see a company-selected psychiatrist, or lose his job. Then armed guards escorted him off the property. The doctor had previously filed a false claims suit against the university, charging them with misspending millions of dollars of federal money. A judge put the doctor under a gag order. He spent a half-million dollars defending himself against the university’s allegations.
Five other faculty members were sent for “psychiatric examination,” and were terminated.
The Postal Service is getting into the act. The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) is challenging the program. The vice president of APWU refers to the company psychiatrist as prostitutes, “because they will write whatever the Postal Service wants them to.”
“Donald Soeken, a former U.S. Public Health Service psychiatric social worker who used to be in charge of giving fitness-for-duty exams, says the psychiatric exams almost always are shams. ‘The doctor will go into all the areas that could discredit a person,’ Soeken says. ‘He'll ask early life questions, late life questions, sexual questions, whatever he wants to ask, and then write it up and give it to the boss or law firm. Any doctor worth his salt will find something wrong, or even make up something, and if you don't answer one of his questions, then you are uncooperative and you can be fired for that, too. What they are trying to do is put a person out on a psychiatric disability. If they succeed, you would never work again in your lifetime.’
“Soeken is sometimes called the father of the fight against abusive fitness-for-duty exams. While doing such exams for federal employees at the Public Health Service's outpatient clinic in Washington, D.C., in 1978, he discovered that many of the people sent to him were either whistleblowers or people who had a personality clash with the boss. The employer making the referrals expected him to give them the ammunition to get rid of employees for mental health reasons…”
“ ‘If you assume the doctor is concerned about your health and well-being, you've made a deadly assumption,’ he says. ‘They are looking for any phrase or evidence they can use against you to stereotype you as schizophrenic, paranoid, or delusional.’ ”
One worker was terminated because he had received psychiatric treatment when he was a teenager – 30 years ago!
“Finding the grounds to fire an employee is not the only goal of employer-mandated psychiatric exams, says Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project. Often, another goal is to smear and discredit the employee. That, he said, is why psychiatric harassment ‘is unsurpassed in its ugliness.’ ”
“Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a new rule requiring that an employer be able to demonstrate a business necessity before subjecting an employee to a medical inquiry. One of its last acts was to issue new regulations restricting an employer's right to dig into an employee's medical history. Part of the patient privacy regulations published by the Department of Health and Human Services on December 28, 2000, the rule bans employer access to health information for use in hiring, firing, or making promotions without the voluntary consent of the employee. Albanese interprets that to mean an employer can't fire you for refusing to turn over your health records.”
“On February 23, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, pushed back the effective date of the rule to give the Administration and Congress time to reexamine it. ‘We're hoping Bush doesn't rescind it,’ says Albanese (Postal unionist).”
And yes, Duke Energy Corporation has referred employees to company-psychiatrists. Some were sent because of a “component miss positioning event.” That sounds a little thin.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 30, 2001
“Employees can lose more than jobs,” by Christine Dugas, USA TODAY raises some of the issues of corporate bankruptcy. You can lose your health and/or life insurance. Or, you may find yourself paying astronomical rates for health insurance. Problems, including fraud, can plague your 401 (k) account. Company stock will likely nosedive.
" ‘When companies are in financial trouble, there is a higher risk of abuse,’ says Marc Machiz, partner in the law firm of Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll and a former Labor Department official.”
That certainly is comforting to know. Duke Energy took their employees to the cleaners in the most prosperous of times with the cash balance pension conversion. If they ever get into financial trouble – hang onto any gold fillings in your teeth!
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 29, 2001
Remember the late 1980’s. One could hardly pickup a newspaper without reading about a new layoff occurring somewhere. In fact, that is exactly how some Duke Power employees found out about the impending layoff in 1988! After the press broke the story, Duke quickly made an announcement to the employees.
Layoffs are once again frequently appearing in the news. And, you know how companies like to play follow-the-leader (only, they call it leadership). So, whatever company you work for, do not be surprised if it is in the news concerning the next layoff.
Jeffrey Seglin offered some insight into the corporate fascination with layoffs with “In a Downsizing, Loyalty Is a Two-Way Street ,” New York Times. The layoffs in the first quarter of this year almost triple the layoffs last year for the same period.
“The payroll is often the first place companies look when trying to save a bundle. But growing evidence suggests that such a response can be myopic. A survey by Mercer Management Consulting of businesses that used cost-cutting as their primary strategy in the first half of the 1990s - a period that included a recession - showed that 71 percent failed to achieve profitable growth in the strong second half of the decade.
“When employees recognize that layoffs may be more of a knee-jerk reaction than a smart business solution, ‘there's a cost to that,’ said Bob Atkins, a vice president at Mercer Management.
" ‘You're breaking trust with your people,’ he said.”
It is interesting that someone from Mercer Management Consulting is concerned with “breaking trust with your people.” Their firm devised the cash balance pension conversion for Duke Power. On that infamous day, the company broke more trust with the employees than had ever been broken in all of its history!
We never expected that everyone at Mercer was an ogre, but everyone cannot escape taking responsibility for the injustice suffered by Duke employees and the employees of many other firms. Duke has our pension money and Mercer has their fees for helping them take it. Now, some of the parties want to appear concerned about breaking trust.
We will believe the leopard has changed his spots when we see our pension money, early retirement benefit, and retirement health coverage back, and not before!
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 27, 2001
There have been some power outages in Concord, North Carolina, near the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. According to The Charlotte Observer and WBTV News 3, some residents feel that their power has been sacrificed to keep the power on at the speedway.
Why do these people not trust Duke Energy? Are they basing their opinions upon what they have observed, and on past experiences with the company? Could be.
All the spin doctoring and advertising in the world will not fool everyone. How many times have you read about a news event involving Duke Energy, and the company tells a completely different version? Sure, the media does not get it right every time, but they are not wrong every time!
It seems that Duke’s media rebuttals and their answers to employee’s question are always the same. If the media/employees say that it is white, Duke says: “No, it’s black.” If anyone says that it is high, Duke says: “No, no, it’s low.” If someone says that it is hot, Duke says: “Heavens no! It’s cold.” If one says that it is “this,” Duke says: “No, you silly goose, it’s ‘that.’ ” No matter what the question, Duke Energy will always answer contrariwise. And, Duke never admits to making a mistake.
You can see how a credibility issue may crop up from time to time. Duke can advertise their “brand” until the end of time, but the public and employees will always believe what they have personally experienced, over the hype. If Duke cannot sell customers their story about a short power outage, how can it possibly expect to sell employees on the idea that wiping out their pension is good for them?
A customer lost power for hours. As soon as the race was over, his lights came back on. One customer saw their lights go out, and the speedway’s lights go on. Another customer called Duke several times, and was given a different story each time. Now, that really inspires confidence in the company. Of course, Duke rolled out a spokesperson to explain away everything. According to the spokesperson, everyone was just mistaken, and once again, Duke is right.
One customer said: "I think Duke is trying to cover up something."
The utilities commission has launched an investigation of Duke Power, because of the numerous complaint calls.
We do not know anything about the outages, other that what was in the news reports. But based on these reports, complete with Duke's explanations, the whole story sounds fishy. Sadly, it is getting to the point that if Duke happened to be right, who would believe it?
Click the links below, and read the articles for yourself:
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - May 20, 2001
On the Bush energy plan, The Charlotte Observer stated: “It looks as if George Bush and Duke Energy Corp. are on the same page.”
It looks like they are under the same sheet to us!
Candidate George W. Bush made it clear that he was going to be the CEO’s president if he was elected. After the Supreme Court selected him for president, he started about his business of giving CEO’s anything that they should want.
Duke’s political contributions are reaping handsome dividends: more nukes, less regulation, more gas, more power lines, more trading, and forget about pollution. Now Duke may not have to go to third world countries to escape government regulations.
As fluff articles go, they do not get much fluffier than this one.
GreenvilleOnline.com - By Jenny Munro - May 6, 2001
If workers don't want bosses to know their private business, personal activities need to be kept off e-mail, the Internet, work computers and the telephone…
For example, Duke Energy Corp. monitors its employees' Internet and e-mail usage on a spot-check basis, said corporate spokesman Randy Wheeless.
"We're looking for things that are totally inappropriate or illegal," he said. "We have taken disciplinary action."
Wheeless said employees are notified about the company's monitoring policy and are told when it changes.
Using the Internet or e-mail for personal use is not always a problem, he said.
"It is not against company policy to use the Internet during the lunch hour or after 5 p.m.," he said. Still, employees are encouraged to be sure the personal uses are appropriate for a business environment — off-shore gambling would not be allowed...
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - April 24, 2001
April 23, The Charlotte Observer published an article about company mission statements.
“Duke Power had a pretty good mission statement in the early '90s that helped focus the growing Charlotte electric utility by spelling out the company's direction: 'we produce and supply electricity, provide electric and other energy related products and services and pursue opportunities that complement our business.'
“But just a couple of years later, it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.”
Duke Power also used to have a pretty decent pension plan. Now it is not worth the paper it is printed on.
And since most employees do not have a contract, their pension plan can be change at any time. It can be changed every day. It can be changed ten times a day! Guess who will lose money with each change!
If there were a truth in mission statements law, the new statement would probably read:
We will maximize profits by any means possible, no matter how underhanded, unscrupulous, immoral, or unethical. We will use deregulation as an excuse to do everything that we have always wanted to do, including self dealing and price gouging. We will aggressively boost the bottom line and stuff the executive’s pockets with ill gotten gains taken from employee benefits. We will, through all manner of devious acts, ensure that employees have less benefits each year. We will hide these dastardly deeds, so that the employees will never be aware of what is actually happening to them. If caught in any of these nefarious acts, we will stonewall and deny until Hades freezes over.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - April 23, 2001
April 16, The Charlotte Observer published remarks that Rick Priory made at the convention of the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics in Florida.
He said: “…We’re seeing a diminishment in the skill levels we need.”
Evidently no one ever considered that when Duke was making all the politically correct layoffs. The company evidently assumed that there would always be an inexhaustible supply of talented, skilled people eager to go to work for Duke Energy.
Of course, any skill can always be found – at a price. Ah, there’s the rub. Mr. Priory wants an abundant supply of skilled people eager to go to work for him – cheaply. Once employed, such skilled workers can expect to see their benefits constantly chiseled away. The pension will be cut, health coverage cut, retirement health coverage eliminated, and holidays endlessly toyed with.
The company had many world-class employees that were “downsized,” just because it was the going fad. These employees can never be replaced. To the bean counters, a bean is a bean, a warm body is a warm body. Those who do the actual work know that employees with irreplaceable skills and knowledge have been discarded. Some left voluntarily after seeing the new direction the company was taking. Now, Mr. Priory is apparently having difficulty finding people with even minimum skills to replace those discarded.
Think about the young person considering higher education. They are not oblivious to what is happening in corporate America. Should they spend years of their lives striving to get good grades just to enter today’s job market? Then they will get the opportunity to work twenty-five years for a company that will suddenly change the pension plan and take away everything the person has worked for. All the while, the company will be secretly eroding benefits in all other areas. Who can blame anyone for just saying: “no thanks.”
There is no need for Mr. Priory to look to mathematics teachers to find the cause of his problems. He would do well to look in a mirror.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - April 22, 2001
It is very difficult to put the puzzle together when so many have a vested interest in ensuring that it is never put together. The table will be turned over, pieces will be hidden or destroyed, and the lights will be turned out from time to time. But some puzzle pieces are being put together regarding industry and respiratory disease.
The New York Times has published an article about a new review of data linking tiny soot particles to respirator disease.
Various industries typically will fund studies that always seem to leave them smelling like a rose. It is amazing how that happens.
Industry is already trying to discredit the new findings. But there is a “catch 22” in it for them: Industry helped finance this research! By only partially funding the research, they probably were not able to fully control the final results. So now, they are blasting their own study!
This news fits in very nicely with the power line and cancer story, published last year, by The Guardian. This story offered a link between the proximity to power lines and lung cancer: electrostatic electricity! The electrostatic charge on such pollutants as car exhaust (soot) causes them to stick to the lungs.
The latest article listed small soot particles as a real problem for the lungs. Just imagine small soot particles in an electrostatic field and you breathing them!
For good measure, we will mention the article published by BBC News last year, linking electromagnetic fields and suicide rates.
Think of the power plant worker that often passes through strong electromagnetic fields each day. Just as he passes under the high voltage lines, the diesel generator cranks up, billowing out a thick cloud of black soot.
This same worker may have also been exposed to asbestos for years. He may have been exposed to nuclear radiation for years. These exposures, added to any hazardous chemical exposures, begins to paint a bleak picture.
One factor may be improving the fatal respiratory disease statistics. Those who commit suicide do not get lung cancer.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - April 20, 2001
Nothing is ever quite the way it painted to be by Duke Energy. There is invariably a twist, angle, or hidden nuance to skew everything in favor of management. What may seem good for employees is often not so good. The positive is accentuated so heavily that the truth of the matter is often endangered. Each sentence uttered by management must be scrutinized, dissected, and analyzed for occult implications. This applies from the gravest of matters to the most trivial. The assault on employee benefits is relentless.
A case in point is holidays. It was not enough for the company to raid the pension fund in 1997. It was not enough to take away promised retirement health care coverage. The company decided to effectively take two holidays from many employees in 1999.
The employees who lost holidays were the ones scheduled to work more than eight hours per day. Prior to the holiday grab, the holiday pay was equal to the number of normally scheduled work hours. Management decided to squeeze the employees a little more by creating a “bank” of holiday hours. This bank was based upon an eight hour work day. Employees scheduled to work greater that eight hours per day would always run out of holidays before the year was up. They had to make up the time, use vacation, or lose pay during a holiday.
Needless to say, the holiday change was a complete flop. Many workers had lost significant pension money, promised to them for decades, just two years before. They were in no mood to be further toyed with by the company. There was much dissention and protest. Management tried to justify the change by saying it would make “all employees equal.” Just who comes up with these half-baked “explanations”? We always know the true answer; every change is made to squeeze more from the employees. When the changes are questioned, the company comes up with a pitiful answer as an afterthought. The answer never flies and the company’s nose continues to grow.
No doubt, the company was surprised by the protest. They thought that they had pulled off the pension grab unscathed. They could not understand the protest about lost holidays. Many groups, including Nuclear Operations, began wearing union buttons. In every meeting, someone would always complain about the new holiday policy. A site vice president said that the company was well aware that the employees did not like the holiday policy, but it was NOT going to be changed. The protest became so intense that Duke “crawfished” a little. The policy was altered so that those working “shift” would get holiday pay equaling the numbers of hours scheduled to work. The holiday change to make everyone equal, was now even more unfair to many employees.
During this time, two sites had voted in labor union representation. But Duke’s half-hearted appeasement effort worked, somewhat. Most, not all, of the union buttons went away. Once again, the company bought themselves out of a pickle cheaply. It still had taken some holidays from some employees and most of the union drive had been quelled.
When the two sites voted in union representation, Mike Tuckman, Vice President of Nuclear Generation, stated that he was “disappointed” because of this! He said that he wanted to continue to work things out “one-on-one.” Excuse us, but do you happen to recall the last time your opinion was asked about anything? Were you asked if you would enjoy losing some holidays? Were you asked if you would like to give up your early retirement subsidy and labor until you were sixty-five years old? Were you asked if you would enjoy retiring with zero company provided health coverage, as promised for years and years?
As one might imagine, the employees still tied to the holiday bank grew more upset. The company finally got a clue - it was costing them more to try to justify an untenable position that to just correct it. last year, it was announced that everyone would get their holidays back, starting in 2001.
In a meeting late last year, someone asked Mike Tuckman why we were given our holidays back. He said because of all the “bitching”!
If it took all of this to get a measly couple of holidays back, do you suppose that suffering in silence will ever get your lost pension and retirement health benefits back? It is time to hit the streets with “bitching,” the likes of which have never been seen before!
When our holidays were restored, Mike Tuckman had the gall to state that we should give money to company causes because of this?!? We had something. We lost it for two years (no reimbursement for those two years). When we got it back, we were supposed to be so overcome with gratitude that we would gladly jump thorough extra company hoops?
Now for the rest of the story: We did not really get everything that we had back! The devil is always in the details. Or, is it a case of the devil writing the details?
When employees worked on a designated holiday they could always also receive their holiday pay for that day, if elected. Now, one only gets eight hours of holiday pay – no matter what their work schedule is! If the schedule is ten hours per day, one gets ten hours of straight time pay and eight hours of holiday pay! Just what possible sense does that make? Duke just could not give it completely back! Duke said that it gave it back. It asked the employees for more because it said that it gave it back. But Duke still, after all of this, held back a little something.
No one knew of this little surprise until they had to work on a holiday. The policies are always written so ambiguously that they could be interpreted many ways. You know who gets to interpret the policy and which direction it always favors.
If this was an isolated occurrence, it would be almost too trivial to mention. But it most assuredly is NOT an isolated example. This is an example of every day business as usual. The chiseling, scheming, and squeezing of benefits continues daily, unabated. What is so bad - those doing the squeezing are raking in more millions that ever.
There is no logic to the new, improved holiday policy. The only time the company will want anyone to work on a holiday is when it is to the company’s benefit. Time and one-half pay would give employees an incentive and compensation for having to work on a holiday, designated or actual. The regular holiday pay is already earned and should be paid, whether an employees works on the holiday or not. Under the new policy, there is no incentive to work on a holiday. And, those who work more that an eight hour day actually get penalized by losing holiday pay that they have already earned! There can only be three reasons for such a holiday policy:
Some feel that Duke Energy employees do not need union representation. We feel that each employee needs a full time attorney, accountant, and actuary to stand a chance of breaking even! Remember, the cash balance plan pension conversion baffled attorneys and actuaries! The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Labor, and Internal Revenue Service are still trying to sort it out. If you still feel qualified to go it on your own - good luck - you will need it!
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - April 3, 2001
Duke Energy filed form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 2, 2001. Below are excerpts from the filing:
On December 22, 2000, the U.S. Justice Department, acting on behalf of the EPA, filed a complaint against Duke Energy in the U.S. District Court in Greensboro, North Carolina, for alleged violations of the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The EPA is claiming that 29 projects performed at 25 of Duke Energy's coal-fired units were major modifications as defined in the CAA and that Duke Energy violated the CAA's NSR requirements when it undertook those projects without obtaining permits and installing emission controls for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. The complaint requests, among other things, that the court enjoin Duke Energy from operating the coal-fired units identified in the complaint, and order Duke Energy to install additional emission controls and pay unspecified civil penalties. This complaint appears to be part of the EPA's NSR enforcement initiative, in which the EPA claims that utilities and others have committed widespread violations of the CAA permitting requirements for the past 25 years. The EPA has sued or issued notices of violation of investigative information requests to at least 48 other electric utilities and cooperatives.
Injury and Damages Claims
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - April 1, 2001
Executives dumped a lot of Duke Energy stock last years, and they are still dumping it this year.
One transaction had estimated proceeds of $12,263,788.
Many employees have all of their retirement savings in Duke Energy stock. Their accounts are in good shape now. But they should be aware of the risk of having all of their savings in a single stock.