HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - They're the people who fix power lines, monitor electricity meters, and turn the lights back on after a blackout.
"Just the whole gamut of getting electricity from our generators to your house," said Doug Hornal, an operator at Hawaiian Electric Company's Waiau power plant.
Thursday night, Hornal and hundreds of other International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 members met in Washington Middle School's cafeteria for a strike authorization vote.
The union's negotiating for a new contract with HECO and its neighbor island subsidiaries, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Co. on the Big Island.
"One of the things we're really concerned about is they're talking about raising our retirement age and maybe changing our pension formulas," Hornal said.
The workers said there's also talk HECO wants to raise the employee share of medical insurance payments.
The present contract is up at the end of the month. It's the last year of a three-year extension.
Union leaders said they're not asking for a big pay increase because of the economy even though HECO's wages trail the mainland.
"We're a good 10% behind of what the same job classification is on the mainland," Hornal said.
In a written statement HECO said its goal is to "arrive at a new agreement that is fair to all parties." The company promised to "continue to negotiate in good faith with the union."
"I think they know our value," Hornal said. "It's just a matter of are they willing to take advantage of an economic downturn to try to squeeze a little bit more out of us?"
There are about 1,300 members in IBEW Local 1260.
The strike authorization results will be made public after meetings are held on the neighbor islands.