PDP public workers call on lawmakers to reject State secretary nominee

Say Seilhamer Rodríguez failed to address LUMA Energy controversy with governor

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) public servants, along with members of the Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym), demanded Tuesday that House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and PDP majority lawmakers vote against the nomination of Secretary of State-designate Larry Seilhamer Rodríguez.

In front of State Department headquarters in Old San Juan, Popular Public Servants Organization President Juan Vega Quiñones said the call comes in response to Seilhamaer Rodríguez stating during a House public hearing last month that he was against amending or extending the start date of LUMA Energy’s private-public agreement to operate the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) transmission and distribution (T&D) system for 15 years.

“The execution of the LUMA Energy contract will have detrimental effects on PREPA employees, many of whom belong to this organization, and Larry was reluctant to defend our workers,” Vega Quiñones said. “Larry had no sensitivity or empathy for our workers in that hearing.”

Furthermore, the PDP public servants leader said, Seilhamer Rodríguez could “not show the ability to act as a mediator to address this conflict with Governor Pedro Pierluisi” when he said that handling the aforementioned contract was not part of his duties, even though Pierluisi appointed Seilhamer Rodríguez on Jan. 14 to head a steering committee to oversee the LUMA-PREPA deal.

“Our workers do not deserve this abuse by having our acquired rights and benefits under current labor laws and collective bargaining agreements taken away,” Vega Quiñones said. “There is no doubt that what the government is doing with our colleagues through the [inter-agency] mobility plan is a constructive dismissal, cornering them so that they have to resign from their jobs, an action that reminds us of the nefarious Law 7-2009, which cost thousands of mothers and fathers of families in the different government agencies their jobs.”

“The LUMA contract could represent a power price hike of up to 15%, which could represent spending $30 to $60 more on electric power,” he added.

UTIER delegate Pedro Pérez Martínez, meanwhile, said that starting June 1, he would be transferred from PREPA as a mower to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) as an office clerk.

“I was a police officer for 15 years before I had this job, so this might not be new for me, but it was not what I was expecting,” Pérez Martínez said. “I am a PREPA worker and I’m interested in retiring from PREPA, not jumping around from one place to another like some frog.”

When the STAR asked if they believe that LUMA Energy is prepared to operate PREPA’s T&D system, Pérez Martínez noted that the contract establishes that at “any time a ‘force majeure’ [extraordinary event in French] happens in Puerto Rico, they can pick up their belongings and leave.”

“LUMA is an Acme brand. LUMA does not exist. LUMA is a product of the idea of Quanta Services and Atco Energy, two companies [located in Houston, Texas and Calgary, Alberta, Canada, respectively] that created LUMA in January 2020, and suddenly a contract appears with the name of LUMA and now they are the biggest experts in the world,” the UTIER delegate said. “What happened in Texas [extended blackouts in February triggered by severe snowstorms] could happen in Puerto Rico. The LUMA Energy contract must be repealed.”

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