From Source to Tap: AFSCME Local 1902 President Shares Union’s Story

By Jacob Bourne

AFSMCE 1902 represents those who work in Southern California’s water districts. They are accountants, electricians, engineers, environmental specialists, mechanics, meter technicians, pipelayers and others who collectively, are water industry experts from source to tap. In advance of the Labor 411 Blue Tie Gala, where we’re honoring the Metropolitan Water District, we spoke with AFSCME 1902 President Alan Shanahan.

Labor 411: What’s the history of AFSMCE 1902?
Alan Shanahan: Our union started out in the ‘60s and had our first representation of the Metropolitan Water District in the ‘70s. In ’91, 1902 joined AFSMCE International and started representing other districts beyond MWD in the ‘90s. Our jurisdiction is public water agencies covering 5,200 square miles. Our members are located as far north as Rosamond down to San Diego, and from the Pacific to the Arizona border and Lake Havasu. Our members are very passionate about their jobs serving the public by providingsafe, clean and reliable water. Our members work at some of the largest reservoirs and water treatment facilities in the world.

411: Talk more about the membership’s relationship with Metropolitan Water District?
AS: We have 1,400 members and represent 80 percent of MWD employees. We run the first and only apprenticeship program for MWD, which started in 2001. MWD is wholesale so it imports, treats and sells water, but some of our other districts distribute water right to people’s homes or offices.

411: What’s the level of engagement among 1902 members?
AS: Our members are very active and engaged. Our apprenticeship program is recognized as one of the best public sector programs in the state. Our pay is at the highest level in water sectors and our latest contract was the best in 50 years. We have the highest participation in voting for AFSCME. Post-Janus, 90 percent of all the employees we represent are members and that’s growing every year.

411: Are there any challenges currently being faced by the Union?
AS: We’re going through battles on safety. We work in tunnels, elevated structures, towers, crane operation — it’s something we’re trying to fix with MWD because things have become lax in recent years. There have been several wildfires that have impacted our facilities with members staying to protect them. About half our members work outside where there can be heat stress, so making sure there’s water, shade and that safety rules are being followed is a top priority for us.

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