FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 file photo, customers use the light from a cell phone to look in the meat section of a grocery store that was without power, in Dallas. Brazos Electric Power Cooperative Inc., the oldest and biggest generation and transmission power cooperative in Texas has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following last month's winter storm that left millions without power. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Texas power coop files for bankruptcy

The largest and oldest power cooperative in Texas is filing for bankruptcy protection, citing last month's winter storm that left millions without power, and it is unlikely to be the last utility to seek shelter in the courts.

Brazos Electric Power Cooperative serves distributors that supply electricity to more than 1.5 million Texans in 68 counties from the Panhandle to Houston. Brazos said Monday that it was a "financially robust, stable company" before the Arctic freeze that hit Texas between Feb. 13 and Feb. 19.

It said it received excessively high invoices from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which operates the state power grid, for collateral and the cost of electric service. The invoices were required to be paid within days.

As a cooperative, Brazos' costs are passed through to its members and retail consumers served by its members. Brazos decided that it won't pass on the ERCOT costs to its members or the consumers, so it filed for Chapter 11 protection, which indicates that the company plans to reorganize its debts rather than liquidate.

"Let me emphasize that this action by Brazos Electric was necessary to protect its member cooperatives and their more than 1.5 million retail members from unaffordable electric bills as we continue to provide electric service throughout the court-supervised process," Clifton Karnei, executive vice president and general manager of Brazos, said in a statement.


Biden says workers have right to unionize

President Joe Biden said workers in Alabama and across the country have the right to join a union without intimidation from their companies. His comments come as Amazon workers in the state are voting on whether they should unionize.

In a two-minute video posted to Twitter, Biden didn't mention Amazon by name, or say how workers should vote, but he stressed that they should be given a choice.

"So let me be really clear: It's not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union. But let me be even more clear: it's not up to an employer to decide that either," Biden said.

At the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse, Amazon has been holding classes, telling workers that the union will take their money for dues without any benefit.

When asked about the video in a briefing Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president believes that workers should have the right to organize, but wouldn't comment specifically on Amazon because the White House doesn't comment on specific cases that are before the National Labor Relations Board.

The union push in Bessemer is the biggest in Amazon's nearly 30-year history. About 6,000 workers started voting in February, and have about a month left to make their choice. Vote counting starts on March 30, and a majority of the workers have to vote "Yes" in order for them to unionize.


European Union adds 'right to repair' law

Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hairdryers or TVs in the European Union will need to ensure those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years, to help reduce the vast mountain of electrical waste that piles up each year on the continent.

The "right to repair," as it is sometimes called, comes into force across the 27-nation bloc Monday. It is part of a broader effort to cut the environmental footprint of manufactured goods by making them more durable and energy efficient.

"This is a really big step in the right direction" said Daniel Affelt of the environmental group BUND-Berlin, which runs several "repair cafes" where people can bring in their broken appliances and get help fixing them up again.

Modern appliances are often glued or riveted together, he said. "If you need specialist tools or have to break open the device, then you can't repair it."

Lack of spare parts is another problem, campaigners say. Sometimes a single broken tooth on a tiny plastic sprocket can throw a proverbial wrench in the works.

"People want to repair their appliances," Affelt said. "When you tell them that there are no spare parts for a device that's only a couple of years old then they are obviously really frustrated by that."

Under the new EU rules, manufacturers will have to ensure parts are available for up to a decade, though some will only be provided to professional repair companies to ensure they are installed correctly.

New devices will also have to come with repair manuals and be made in such a way that they can be dismantled using conventional tools when they really can't be fixed anymore, to improve recycling.


Chrysler pleads guilty in union corruption case

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, now part of Stellantis, has pleaded guilty in a long-running corruption probe, formally admitting Monday that it paid more than $3.5 million in personal expenses for senior UAW officials.

As part of its guilty plea via Zoom in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the company agreed to pay $30 million and submit to an independent compliance monitor for three years. Sentencing was set for June 21.

The scandal netted 15 convictions, including against two former UAW presidents, and led to a consent decree for the union as well.

The company was represented by Chris Pardi, general counsel and corporate secretary for FCA-North America.

The scandal was centered around the actions of Alphons Iacobelli, the one-time lead labor negotiator for FCA, who had directed UAW officials to pay for personal expenses using credit cards from the worker training center connected to FCA. Iacobelli was among those convicted.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner