With a surprising pro-union bent, the California Public Utilities Commission made new rules allowing unions latitude in requesting intervenor compensation. At the same time, it opened the commission?s door to more public voices. In a December 18 vote, the commission overrode its staff?s plan for new rules for intervenor eligibility that would have excluded unions. Staff have a ?profound misunderstanding of the role of unions in society,? commissioner Carl Wood said. Supported by commission president Mike Peevey?who acknowledged his own union past?Wood lectured on the historic role of unions as an economic and social force, as well as progenitor of consumer groups such as The Utility Reform Network and Consumers Union. Wood joined the commission as a former utility workers union representative. Staff had maintained that unions did not qualify for intervenor status and thus could not get funds set aside by utilities to support alternative points of view in commission proceedings. The proceeding that caused the new intervenor rules was brought by a tiny union, Local 483 of the Utility Workers of America, with 250 members. The union does maintenance and repair on Southern California Gas infrastructure. With the decision?s precedent, commissioners hope to get more diverse opinions to augment decisionmaking. ?We should reward them, not put obstacles in their way,? said commissioner Loretta Lynch. ?We have Byzantine rules,? she added. ?It?s hard enough to provide a perspective and analysis that is different from [that of] utilities.?