FuelCell Energy system managers vote to join union


DANBURY — A dozen workers at one of Connecticut’s most prominent technology companies, FuelCell Energy, voted on Friday to join a union.

FuelCell Energy employees are joining Local 478 of the International Union of Operations Engineers, according to organizers of the organizing drive. Workers voted 8-4 to join Local 478 after launching their union membership campaign in October 2021.

FuelCell Energy manufactures and operates hydrogen fuel cells that generate electricity. Local 478 has over 4,000 members and represents heavy equipment operators, mechanics and support staff for Connecticut businesses.

The workers, who will now be represented by the IUOE, are system operators in the company’s Global Monitoring & Control Center. They remotely control fuel cell units in various locations across the country.

Justin Mates, a system operator at the center, said the vote means “the voices of dedicated workers, who showed up every day during COVID, were heard today.”

“We are thrilled to join Local 478 with increased earning potential, as well as the opportunity for a real pension and health benefits,” Mates said. “We are excited to grow with FuelCell Energy, which provides clean energy around the world.”

Joseph Campoli, the campaign organizer, said the system operators contacted Local 478 leaders, after determining their pay was well below industry standard. The situation was exacerbated by the raises senior management received, which union officials said were over 70%, he said.

“I believe working-class people across the country are increasingly frustrated with the pay disparities between them and senior management,” Campoli said. “After all, it is the people who generate the production and ultimately the profits that keep these businesses going. Workers are once again standing up for the fair share they deserve for their hard work.

Besty Schaefer, chief marketing officer of FuelCell Energy, was not immediately available to comment on the outcome of Friday’s union vote. Independent estimates of the company’s overall workforce, based on regulatory documents and public statements, put the total number of employees at around 380 people.

Neither side challenged the vote with the National Labor Relations Board, Campoli said.

Voting at FuelCell Energy went against a growing number of labor organizations at tech companies across the United States, said David Cadden, professor emeritus at Quinnipiac University’s School of Business. Earlier this month, workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York voted overwhelmingly to unionize and Cadden said the success of that effort has emboldened unions and workers who sought to join them.

“I think unions have taken a real beating over the last three or four decades, but now they’re starting to have success in the tech industry,” he said. “I think part of it is the nature of the work, the fact that an individual worker’s self-esteem is assaulted. People don’t want to feel like they’re being treated as part of a machine.


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