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DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Duke - Page 3 - 2001

"We'll continue to do more with less until we're doing everything with nothing."

Duke Energy and Signal Mountain

Associated Press - September 27, 2001

Local officials and residents are upset about Duke Energy Corp.'s application to build a natural gas pumping station near an elementary school, park and residential areas.

"It could not be a worse selection for a site," said Mayor Jim Althaus.

Hamilton County Commissioner Richard Casavant, who represents Signal Mountain, said the company apparently didn't realize "what the projected use for that area is."

Duke applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a four-acre pumping station on 36 acres of land owned by the Baird family near Nolan Elementary School.

The 1,500-horsepower compressor station would pump gas through a pipeline from Virginia through Tennessee and North Carolina.

Senior project manager Debbie Rios said the commission is expected to approve the project by next summer. Construction would begin by summer of 2003, with the entire project finished by January 2004.

However, Rios said Duke is also looking for an alternative site.

"There's still an opportunity to possibly see if another option is viable, if, in fact, the landowner and county don't want us there," she said.

Some residents say a pumping station would be a hazard and an eyesore.

"It's a potential disaster waiting to happen to a community that's not in a position to handle that," said Signal Mountain resident Bob Spalding.

Signal Mountain resident Glenn Baird, whose parents own the proposed site, said the area is zoned low-density residential and that his family wants to see houses eventually built on the land.

Rios said the $3 million station would be unobtrusive, routinely monitored and would generate tax revenues for the town and county.

"We would be a good and safe operating facility," she said, adding that the company would educate local emergency services about any potential risk.

Privately owned gas companies acting for the public good have the right of eminent domain under the Natural Gas Act of 1938. Duke Energy officials said they take the land only as a last resort.

"We have the right to get land for our use, but that is the last thing we do," said Duke spokeswoman Gretchen Krueger.

Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is the largest producer of natural gas liquids in the country.

Duke Energy Will Not Retaliate

Employee Advocate - http://dukeemployees.com - September 23, 2001

“Duke Energy will not retaliate against any employee for reporting suspected violations of laws, regulations or company policies.”

The above statement was made by Mr. Rick Priory on September 18, 2001, while addressing the audit of Duke Power, because of alleged improprieties. This promise is also in the Duke Energy Code of Business Ethics.

Why then, do so many employees have trouble accepting the statement at face value? Could it be because of past experience? Is it because employees have seen the way pension, early retirement, and health coverage promises were totally ignored in the past? Many employees seem to believe that this is a self-serving statement, not to be taken seriously.

Fortunately, some employees do not care if the company retaliates against them. Various intimidation tactics are useless on them. They are determined that the company will answer to someone for all perceived injustices.

For those who have filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against any company, do not forget your rights. It is illegal, under federal law, for the company to retaliate against you. The universal EEOC number is: 1-800-669-4000.


TomPain - By Michael Ryan - September 22, 2001

The hole in the sky is still outside my window. Whatever the lords of finance and government decide to fill it with someday -- two more towers, perhaps, or some sincere but still insufficient memorial, or maybe nothing at all -- it will be years before a generation has risen that will not think of that empty space as it was.

The gods of Wall Street these past few days have been showing the respect we all owe to our betters. Page after page of financial ads -- the gray blocks of bland type unfortunately known in the trade as "tombstones" -- have been cropping up in the press of this small town. Usually they have a predictable text, along the lines of, "MorganLehmanSolomon is pleased to announce the Issue of 8 gadzillion series-B shares of Gigantico. We underwrote the offering."

This time, though, there was a needed modesty in their tone. In page after page of The New York Times, and even the Daily News and Newsday, the great financial behemoths proved that, for one week at least, they understand the proper order of things. The words varied slightly, but the tone was the same: "PrudentialSmithAmEx thanks the fire and police and emergency personnel who risked and gave their live to save ours."

At the turn of the last century, the town doctor might make twice as much as a farmer; the banker might make twice as much as the doctor. Each one had the same voice, and the same vote, in the town meeting -- and the farmer was as likely a the banker to be elected Mayor.

Something went mad in this country in the postwar years; some vile spirit infected us the way a fungus infects a tree at its roots. We sucked it into our system and made it part of our core. It made us forget the debt we owe to those who dedicate their lives to the rest of us. It was the belief that the talent for manipulating money, making mergers, gobbling up companies and skating along the edge of the law is the greatest skill of humankind, and the trait worthy of the greatest monetary reward.

Start off as a teacher, a police officer, a firefighter, an EMT in this city, and your first-year-salary will be somewhere between $31,500 to $34,970. Hang on long enough to become Police or Fire Commissioner, you'll make it into the over-$100,000 club -- about where the 25-year-olds from Yale start in their first Wall Street jobs.

For a moment -- a cockeyed optimist would hope forever -- it seemed that those economic inequalities were disappearing. Many of the multi-millionaires at Ground Zero behaved with extraordinary valor; already, there have been dozens of stories of financiers who died helping others. When life offered the ultimate test of courage, many of those who risked and gave their lives were bankers and traders and brokers and analysts. Nothing can detract from their valor and nothing should. That morning, the executives in the Towers and on the airplanes were worth far more to this society than whatever they were paid.

But teachers in downtown and Battery Park City also risked their lives to get their kids out of the inferno; we pay them all of $31,500 for that. And cops and firefighters died while making annual salaries less than it costs to rent some houses in the Hamptons for the Fourth of July weekend. Their heroes' deaths made them worth every bit as much as every other victim; if only our economy had valued them as much in life. And that must be a lasting lesson of September 11th.

Maybe those folks who measure their worth by how many millions more than their neighbor they make will change their minds; maybe now they'll judge themselves by how many millions they forgo to improve the lives of the people who risk their lives to make capitalism possible.

I don't say that it's likely. But stranger -- and far sadder -- things have happened this week.

This is Mike Ryan for TomPaine.com.

Downsizing Unhealthy for Remaining Employees

Reuters Health - By Charnicia E. Huggins - September 18, 2001

Any individual who has been the victim of downsizing may agree that it can negatively affect one's finances, but a new study shows that it may also be bad for health--particularly the health of remaining employees.

``Our results suggest that at least immediately after downsizing, the group with the highest risk to health problems may not always be those who have lost their jobs, but also those who have remained in their jobs after a major downsizing,'' lead researcher Dr. Jussi Vahtera of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health told Reuters Health. Vahtera and his colleagues reviewed employer records for 764 Finnish employees who remained employed during a period of major downsizing.

The remaining employees were more than twice as likely to take regular sick leave or sick leave due to trauma after major downsizing than after minor downsizing. They also had a nearly sixfold increased risk after major downsizing of taking sick leave for musculoskeletal-related reasons.

In addition, employees who survived a major downsizing were 2.5 times more likely to rate their health as poor, to report new musculoskeletal symptoms and to have severe musculoskeletal pain than employees who survived a minor downsizing, Vahtera's team reports.

The increased risks of poor health among remaining employees were evident even 4 years after the downsizing occurred, according to Vahtera.

Possible explanations include increased stress due to a greater workload, more job insecurity and stress caused by a decreased ability to participate in decision making, Vahtera noted.

In light of these study results, ``those making decisions concerning organizational downsizing should be aware of the potential negative consequences of this managerial strategy to (the) health of employees,'' Vahtera said. The findings were presented recently during the 16th World Congress on Psychosomatic Medicine in Goteborg, Sweden.

I Am Not a Crook

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - http://dukeemployees.com - September 4, 2001

Duke Energy and other utilities have resorted to running full-page newspaper ads that state, essentially, “I Am Not a Crook.” The press has been going against these companies because of their involvement in the California energy crisis. These companies must have figured that the only way they were going to get any good press was to buy it!

Recently, Duke was buying ads in The Wall Street Journal plugging their “brand.” They have regressed from telling everyone that they are the greatest that ever was, to trying to convince everyone that they are not the scum-of-the-earth!

Duke is still trying to spin a positive image for itself out of this chaos. But realistically, there is a limit on just how much spin doctoring can accomplish. Duke is receiving payback in so many areas. One just cannot trample on everyone and expect zero repercussions. Employees do not appreciate being lied to and having their benefits vaporized. Ratepayers do not appreciate being gouged. The public does not appreciate the pollution being dumped upon them.

Duke did not get into this position by accident. They plotted, schemed, cajoled, misrepresented, and begged to be in this position. Duke ignored everyone to worship Wall Street investors. Now that Duke is reaping the painful fruit of their actions, perhaps Wall Street will comfort them in their time of need. (But don’t count on it!)

Ed Fletcher (Sacramento Bee) wrote an article describing the woe of the smarting corporations. In it, Medea Benjamin, founding director of the consumer advocacy group Global Exchange was quoted as saying: "I think they recognize they have a big PR problem. People are really angry with these companies. They are the poster child for evil corporations. It (angers me) to see some of the money they have taken from us going back to try to brainwash us. I think these ads will backfire. I think people see who is paying for the ads."

Duke was blubbering because former employees were allowed to give their testimony against Duke, while Duke officials were not allowed in. No doubt, this was a great shock to Duke. It was like the spoiled brat hearing the word “no” for the first time in his life.

Duke is used to having all the input and employees having zero input. Duke is known to slide a little money around to assure political access. Duke is used to having reporters cater to them. Duke’s man is on the inside devising just how deregulation will come about in North Carolina. Duke is used to having all of the say. It was understandably traumatic for them to be told, essentially, to: “sit down and shut up!”

(Well, I never. No one can do that to us. We’ll just buy up media access.) And, they did.

What a desperate display of damage control.

“The PR effort has a long way to go if you take Harvey Rosenfield's word for it: ‘At the moment, I can think of no greater villain...no greater incidence of thievery than these guys,’ said the president of the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights. ‘No amount of propaganda is going to conceal their responsibility for this disaster.’"

So, the truth remains that you just cannot fool all the people all the time.

Duke Wall Street Journal Ads

Justice Dept. Taking Duke Energy Case Depositions

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - http://dukeemployees.com - August 23, 2001

Eric Pianin (Washington Post) reports that the Justice Department has been accused of going easy on taking action against refineries and power plants. The Justice Department has denied this.

“...Justice Department spokeswoman Cristine Romano said, ‘The Justice Department is aggressively pursuing lawsuits against companies under the Clean Air Act . . . and at the same time we are continuing settlement talks with willing parties.’"

The department has cited recent settlements with several oil companies. Also, depositions are being taken against a number of utilities, including Duke Energy Corporation.

Some Get Rich, Some Get Opium

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - http://dukeemployees.com - August 6, 2001

Many articles published by the main-stream media are so sanitized, pasteurized, pulverized, and scrutinized, so as not to step on any toes, that they are complete rubbish. “Executives Get Rich, Workers Get Peanuts,” by John Balzar (Los Angles Times) is an exception to the rule.

First off, the title lets you know that the article is not going to be too namby-pamby. No punches are pulled. He covered the unbelievable greed of executives gorging themselves on the worker’s pensions. He covered the two tiered benefits system in corporate America, where workers are constantly shook down to further fatten the executives.

Mr. Balzar questions why there is no backlash to these injustices. He mentions Ralph Nader as the only protester. We will forgive Mr. Balzar for being unaware that there are protesters aplenty. They just do not get the media coverage that Mr. Nader receives.

But these protesters have an advantage that Mr. Nader does not possess: They are working from inside the corporations that are the culprits. Each major corporation that has raided the employee’s pension fund has many employees who are not at all happy about it. Some are more visible that others. It is reasonable to say that for each visible protester, there are hundreds of others underground. Actions are being taken, on a daily basis, to correct the injustice that workers have been subjected to. These actions just do not receive headline news coverage on a daily basis. And that is fine with us; one cannot deposit headlines.

One reason given for the apparent lack of backlash is the lottery. He cautions us not to laugh. We are not laughing. We know it to be true for some people. Some employees, perhaps unconsciously, believe that they can compensate for the pension benefits that they have lost by winning a lottery. Others are resorting to reckless speculation, in an attempt to make up the pension shortfall. The human mind is not always rational. This is an emotional response.

The sad truth is that most of these employees will be far worse off than before they tired to make up their losses. The only one to consistently win in the lottery game is the one who conducts the lottery. The only one to consistently win in the speculation game is the broker. He gets his slice of the action with each transaction, regardless of whether you win or lose. This is in addition to the many other ways that he has to fatten his take.

The lottery and wild speculation may well be the new “opium of the masses.” It temporarily numbs the brain to the specter of a bleak future full of broken promises. The chance of “making it big” can make the thought of facing another day of drudgery almost palatable.

Hopefully, many of the employees, who are still shell shocked, will snap out of it. Denial of the situation and fantasizing about a financial windfall will get you nowhere. Efforts spent in countering the pension, and other, injustices have a better chance of succeeding. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but we have a good chance, a very good chance.

Executives Get Rich, Workers Get Peanuts

Three Overtime Lawsuits Against Duke Energy

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - http://dukeemployees.com - August 1, 2001

The Charlotte Observer story below tells of the three overtime lawsuits employees have filed against Duke Energy and a subsidiary. This has been brewing for some time.

Employees have related to us the very meager settlement negotiated by The U. S. Department of Labor. Who would possibly want to settle for a mere fraction of what one should have earned in overtime pay? If Duke Energy illegally withheld overtime pay, should these employees not receive the full pay due them?

We congratulate these employees on taking action to secure the total amount of pay that they were deprived of. There are so many ways for employees to lose when dealing with Duke Energy.

The easiest way for the company to win is when employees never question anything. That’s just too easy for Duke; they win by default.

Even a settlement negotiated by a government agency may or may not be fair to the employees. If Duke can settle through an agency for a small percentage of what is actually owed, they win again!

Sometimes the only way to receive justice is through a lawsuit.

One can have a strong case and still lose out. How, you ask? One young lady filed a sexual harassment charge against Duke Energy. She had hard evidence against the company. It looked like the company could not get out of this one. The untimely demise of this lady allowed Duke to slip off the hook once again.

Employees have complained about the so called “standby pay.” These employees say that they do not even receive the seven dollars per hour; it is applied to their benefits. Some have said that they are not eligible for unemployment insurance, even when they are out of work for months at a time. What is wrong with a system where one employee rakes in millions and receives a 200 percent incentive award, while others receive nothing for months at a time?

Another issue that many employees have complained about is no pay for “beeper duty.” Some employees have said that Duke Energy requires them to be “on call” for zero compensation. They have said that they are threatened with disciplinary action if they are not available to respond to a call out.

The Observer article stated: “The manager, according to the lawsuits, said if the analysts didn't accept the settlement, the companies would retaliate against them.” This is very interesting indeed! The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1-800-669-4000) would like to hear about any such threats.

Duke Energy has swept many unsavory employment practices under the rug for years. It is time for each one to be exposed and tested for full compliance with all state and federal laws. If you are waiting for Duke to offer to make things right, you will be waiting for an eternity.

3 Duke Energy Employees Sue for OT Violations

The Charlotte Observer - By ERIC FRAZIER - July 31, 2001

Three Lincoln County residents have filed lawsuits against Duke Energy and a subsidiary, alleging the companies broke state and federal laws by making them work overtime and refusing to pay them a higher overtime rate.

Carla Keziah, Barney Grant and Kenneth Stewart are accusing Duke Energy and Duke Engineering Services of refusing to pay them 11/2 times their regular pay rate when they worked overtime.

Duke Energy is the parent company of Duke Power, the Carolinas' largest utility, and employer of about 10,000 workers in the Charlotte area. Duke Engineering is a 1,700-employee subsidiary that does engineering consulting work with utilities and government agencies around the globe.

The three workers, technical analysts who study power plant operations, filed suit in Mecklenburg Superior Court last month.

The lawsuits said department managers, supervisors and other officials directly pressured the employees to work overtime without paying them the higher rate required by law.

The legal battle has been launched on behalf of the three workers and "all others similarly situated," according to the three lawsuits.

Stewart's lawsuit says he filed a complaint in 1998 or 1999 with the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging the companies were violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

After an investigation, the Labor Department reached a settlement with the companies, the lawsuit says. The companies in March issued checks to about 25 workers, "but some employees have chosen not to participate in the resolution," Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless said.

Neither Wheeless nor the lawsuits specified how much the companies paid the workers.

The three workers said in their lawsuits that a manager was heard late last year or earlier this year talking about the Labor Department probe. The manager, according to the lawsuits, said if the analysts didn't accept the settlement, the companies would retaliate against them. The workers said in the lawsuits that their hourly pay has been reduced to $7 in recent months.

Wheeless declined to speak further about the case, except to say that "Duke has tried to do the right thing."

Social Security Crisis

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - http://dukeemployees.com - July 20, 2001

The Associated Press tells that Social Security will not be able to fulfill its promise to future retirees without measures, such as raising taxes. This revelation came from a report from a presidential commission.

Wait a minute! Did we not just get a tax cut, with the assurance from G. W. Bush that it would not impact Social Security or Medicare?

“The report said workers and retirees do not own their benefits and have no legal claim to them.” Is that not what Duke Energy basically told us about the pension benefits that we had been promised for decades? Duke’s man is in the White House now. If he does to Social Security what Duke has done to our pensions, many will have a very bleak retirement indeed.

``What they have is a political promise that can be changed at any time, by any amount for any reason.'' Evidently, Duke just made the employees a political promise also.

Have you noticed that if Duke Energy has a hackneyed program that does not work, they will likely tell you that it is your program? Here is the deal:

  • Many of the programs have never worked.
  • They were designed only to impress some regulator.
  • They were never intended to be of any benefit to the workers.
  • Many of the programs are actually a hindrance to getting anything accomplished!
  • Employees had zero input into these programs.
  • Each attempt at revamping the programs has failed.
  • When Duke realizes that the program is hopeless, they will say: “You own the program”!

Yeah? Well, we don’t want the program! Do not put the company’s failures on us!

On the other hand, we were promised specific pension benefits for many years. We received documentation annually, promising exactly what pension benefits we would receive. Then, Duke effectively said: “It is really not you pension; it is ours. And, we are going to take a big chunk out of it.”

The game is: Duke promises pensions (in writing), and gives the employees junk programs that never worked, never will work, and no one wants! Now, it looks like the same game is going to be played on a federal level.

Duke Energy Employees Demand Money Back

San Diego Channel 10 News - July 17, 2001

Union workers demanded their money back from Duke Energy Tuesday at a rally outside the Chula Vista Plant.

Gov. Gray Davis says that energy producers, such as Duke, owe Californians a total of $9 billion.

At the "Stop Rolling Blackmail" rally, workers said that there haven't been any changes at the power plant that would warrant raising the cost of electricity.

"We know darn well that they didn't hire any more people, that they didn't pay the workers any more," Jerry Butkiewicz of the California Labor Federation told 10News. "That it was strictly profit that Duke pulled out of this plant."

According to 10News, the union has been protesting at power plants across the state so that they can better support their families.

Go Elsewhere, Residents Tell Duke Energy

Associated Press - July 11, 2001

Speakers at a Tuesday night permit hearing for Duke Energy North America's proposed power plant outside this north Louisiana community left no doubt: They don't want it.

``We do not need your power. We do not need your pollution. We do not need your acid rain,'' resident Tyler Storms said. ``If you want to do what's good for us, you'll go somewhere else.''

For over three hours, a steady line of concerned citizens, many of whom live or work within two miles of the proposed merchant power plant, trooped to the microphone to tell a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality hearing officer that the plant isn't the neighbor they want.

Many of the residents were members of the Greenwood Action Group for the Environment, a grass roots organization that's vowed to go to court in its attempt to stop Duke from building a $200 million gas-fired plant on an 89-acre site about five miles northwest of Ruston. The so-called peaking plant would run only during high-demand times, like hot summer days.

Tuesday's hearing on Duke's application for air, water quality and environmental assessment certification was part of DEQ's permit process. The testimony will be used in DEQ's decision-making process.

The company says the plant - which still hasn't been approved by Duke's board of directors - would operate within allowable state and federal guidelines.

Plant opponents say the North Carolina-based energy company not only failed to follow required alternative site-selection rules, but also could damage the already ailing Sparta Aquifer. The Sparta is the primary water source for much of north Louisiana.

Duke wants to use roughly 200,000 gallons of aquifer water a day to cool the electric generating equipment. Bobby Price, a member of the Sparta Groundwater Commission, called for ``some type of moratorium on putting anything into the Sparta other than for domestic use.'' He also asked Duke to reconsider its decision to use groundwater rather than water from Ruston's wastewater treatment plant.

Plant foes say they also fear the plant's estimated toxic air emissions projections are low, and the parish's signature peach crop could suffer. Mitcham Farms, the parish's largest peach producer, is within a mile of the proposed site. Owner J. E. Mitcham ``may get up some morning and his peach trees be completely denuded by acid rain,'' said Ruston resident Pat Moseley.

``Take it from a chemist,'' Moseley told Duke officials sitting on the front row, ``I don't want to breath that air. I recommend we forget about that whole thing and let it go to another location.''

``I believe Duke's report raises more question than it answers,'' said Becky Howard.

``Duke Energy has proved it's less than honest in its application,'' said Rick Godley, also of Ruston. ``What else can they not be trusted on?

He and others claim Duke created an alternative site selection after GAGE attorneys contacted DEQ, and after the company has said its Ruston choice was irrevocable.

Duke officials have repeatedly refuted most of the claims. They say they've reviewed - and ruled out - five other sites.

North Carolina at the Bottom and the Top

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - July 4, 2001

The High Point Enterprise published the infant mortality data provided by the March of Dimes. North Carolina is not doing too good: 46th highest in the nation, and 45th for low birth weight.

But Duke Energy is keeping North Carolina on the top of at least one list: highest deregulated energy price gouging by any company in the nation! The Charlotte Observer first reported that Duke is leading the price gouging race with a charge of $3,880 per megawatt hour.

Duke - Page 2 - 2001