As October ended, the Lincoln Electric Cooperative controversy continued to grow. On October 31, Hitting the High Points read:
“Now there’s a new rumor running around. Lincoln Electric is supposed to be the target of a buy out and a takeover by private utility companies. I can’t figure out exactly where this rumor got it’s start, but I’ve been told it was started just north of Eureka, in the new Lincoln Electric Building. To steal a phrase from Monk, ‘ignorant and uninformed people’ must be spreading this load of malarkey. As the old saying goes, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle ‘em with bull.
The problem with the rumor is simple – it’s not a buyout, it’s been a sell out. Most of the trustees, elected to protect the members, have sold out. As a result of their gradual sell out, there has been a takeover – by the manager.
The rumor’s a real simple one – the ignorant, uninformed members of CREAM are being manipulated by evil dastardly special interests, with big eyes, who will move in on Lincoln Electric, like wolves on a lame sheep, take it over, and then sell it to: Montana Power, Pacific Power & Light, Washington Water Power, the Little Sisters of the Poor, pick one.
It’s too bad that they figure that they can’t keep control by telling the truth.
There will be a special members meeting, and a chance to vote out the board that sold us out. CREAM will be offering a reform slate of candidates to replace them.
I don’t like watching a rumor campaign. This campaign to regain membership control of Lincoln Electric is getting enough hard feelings without stooping to smear campaigns.
And I’m making a simple promise to help stop the rumor mongering. The Mountain Ear will support no candidate or group that is not committed to running Lincoln Electric as a cooperative, for the members.
And thanks for telling us about the rumor campaign.”
On Page 4, the headline was “CREAM churns”:
“The Concerned REA Members (CREAM) met Monday evening, October 24. As CREAM got a bit more formal, Craig Eaton was chosen chairman, Mike McCurry vice-chairman, and Cheryl Evjene as secretary/treasurer.
Cheryl reported that petition signatures now far exceed the 10% needed to call a special meeting, and that they are being checked against the Lincoln Electric membership list to be certain they’re valid. The consensus of the attending members was to turn the petitions demanding a special members meeting in as soon as all the signatures can be checked and verified.
CREAM decided it will not be necessary to get a court order for Lincoln Electric to deliver the membership list since one of the LEC office staff has already delivered the list to them.”
On November 7, 1988 the frontpage ad headline was “CREAM Announces”:
“Tonight, (November 7th) Lincoln Electric Cooperative has scheduled a special meeting to receive CREAM’s petitions calling for removal of the trustees.
608 Lincoln Electric members have signed that petition.
These ads will be your only notification and invitation to attend the special board meeting. Attend if you can.
On page 3, a letter from Evelyn Schroeder:
“Mike: Here is a copy of a letter I’ve written to Mr. Miller. It is self explanatory. You may publish it in the Mountain Ear if you wish.
Mr. Melvin Miller
You requested in the last correspondence to the members of the Coop that if we had any questions to please let you know.
I have one point that has been bothering me for a long time, long before this recent controversy. As far as I know, the Coops were established for the benefit of rural citizens in outlying areas so they could have the use of electricity and telephone service at nominal cost! I know out here in the Trego area, there are several families who are without power and telephone service because it would cost them “an arm and a leg” to have a hook up! Some have children, and without telephone service in case of an emergency, what are they to do? One man, living alone, who should have a phone, but here again it is too costly!
With the money that is being spent on many other projects, salaries, etc., isn’t the original purpose of the coops being defeated?
Page 4, November 7, included “The Lineman’s Saga”
“More news from Lincoln Electric concerns the contracts for the linemen. Apparently, in bargaining with the union, the management of LEC has suggested their preferred form of contract: Linemen would not have any seniority of value, instead they would be kept or canned strictly based on the results of management evaluations. According to the reports we’ve heard at the Mountain Ear, this would allow an overhiring of linemen to occur, poor reports to be written on our existing linemen, then all of them could be sacked whenever the manager chose to do so.
A little background on the union controversy may help at this point. According to our sources, the linemen were driven to unionize when the manager’s capricious policies became unbearable. The situation had deteriorated to a point where linemen were spending 4 out of 5 weekends either on standby or on call and were forbidden to travel more than 50 miles from their headquarters. Although another lineman was allegedly to be hired to alleviate this situation, following the firing of Monk Miller’s son-in-law (due to nepotism), this position was left open.
Obviously, there are two sides to the story. Monk’s, printed in his ‘Notes from the Manager’s Desk’ in the 9-29 issue of the Tobacco Valley News was “Generally people join unions in hope of improving wages and benefits while at the same time seeking reduced workload conditions.
According to the reports we’ve received, the Lincoln Electric management is negotiating contracts for the linemen through the offices of an attorney who is charging LEC between $95 and $100 per hour for his time.”