Pepco union overwhelmingly rejects contract; strike or lockout possible

WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - Union workers at Pepco have rejected what the company called its final contract offer and could go on strike.

Union and company officials plan another meeting Friday, ABC7 has learned.

The Washington Post reports the union overwhelmingly turned down the offer Wednesday.

The president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1900, James Griffin, says more than 1,000 members cast ballots.

Griffin says his largest concern is a proposed change to the workers' health and welfare plans.

He says if Pepco maintains its position, the union's next step could be to poll its members on authorizing a strike.

The Post reports the two sides haven't been able to agree on a contract despite help from a mediator.

The workers could go on strike if the two sides can’t agree to a deal, or Pepco could lock them out.

It would be the first strike at Pepco since 1985, when union members walked out for five days.

Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel says the company is making arrangements to keep negotiating with the union. Company officials say they are prepared for a strike.

Oppel says a lockout "is not something we are considering."

But she said the company can nonetheless summon more than 400 contractors if necessary.

“For months we’be been training mangagement employees, contractors already on our system who can take over the field work,” Oppel says.

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