Tag Archives: Northern California

AAA Gets an “F” For Dumping Agents, Leaving Customers in the Lurch

 AAA TruckTriple-A has been American drivers’ friend almost since U.S. roads linked the nation together. It has rescued families from flat tires and worse. It has planned millions of family vacations and sold well-regarded auto insurance. It has always skewed toward older drivers and welcomed their devoted renewal of memberships. Its employees got good benefits and stayed with the organization.

For all those reasons, it’s a shock to hear that-at least in Northern California-AAA is dumping senior employees like so much excess baggage, according to a lawsuit filed by 10 of them. At AAA’s California State Auto Club branch, successful veteran insurance agents report being fired or forced out and replaced with younger, cheaper hires and call center employees.

Drivers who have kept up their AAA memberships for decades should be steamed about this on principle. But there are practical reasons to be angry, especially for drivers with AAA auto, home or boat insurance.

The laid-off AAA insurance agents are the people you would have called if you had a policy question or problem with a claim. Or if you wanted to add your child to a policy. Or maybe just for advice-for instance about whether a rental car is covered or whether your auto insurance is good in Canada.

Where are you going to get that help now? Who you gonna call?

Your file would likely become a “house account,” often with no agent assigned. Maybe the call center kid can find your file, put you on hold and hunt for a manager to help him figure it out. The hourly workers answering the phone won’t know you from Adam.

If the same thing is going on at other AAA chapters, it’s not likely the public will know unless more lawsuits emerge.

Judy DuganThe “why” of these dismissals is not complicated. Insurance agents get bonuses when they sell new policies and smaller yearly payments from the insurance company as policies are renewed. The agents are expected to earn your loyalty and keep you in the fold.

The senior agents service up to thousands of policies built up by sales over the years. This takes time, so they may sell fewer new policies.

By dismissing the agents, CSAA gets to keep their yearly servicing payment.

CSAA’s bet is that you won’t care enough to endure the thrash of taking your business elsewhere. The fact that anyone laid off at age 50 is unlikely to ever find a comparably paying job? Not AAA’s problem.

Layoffs off of older, higher-paid employees are nothing new in modern corporate culture. But this is a case when the fallout also harms the customer in a direct way. It’s worth thinking about before you dial the number on the AAA insurance brochure you got in the mail.

Posted by Judy Dugan, Research Director Emeritus for Consumer Watchdog

The Disaster in Rugged Northern California

Firefighting is a dangerous line of work, but disasters like the helicopter crash in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest are a jolt to the system.  If you haven’t heard, nine people died in a helicopter crash while fighting the fire up there.

Authorities confirmed Thursday that nine people listed as missing in a fiery helicopter crash in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest are dead … The accident Tuesday night in a remote forested area about 70 miles northwest of Redding took the life of a pilot of the helicopter and seven firefighters. The identity of the ninth victim was not released, but authorities said he was a U.S. Forest Service employee.

“We are devastated by this,” said Mike Wheelock, owner of Grayback Forestry, a private firefighting firm based in Merlin, Ore., that employed the 10 firefighters aboard the copter. (SF Chronicle 8/8/08)

You can see more stories on the crash at the LA Times. and Bloomberg and CNN cover the impact to the community. The SacBee questions why the firefighters were there in the first place.

Best wishes to the friends and family of the victims.

Northern California Fire Update

IMG_4382As of right now, there are over 1,000 fires burning in Northern California, consuming over 130,000 acres. Almost 12,000 firefighters are working to stop the wildfires. You can get more details at the CalFire Home page and view a Google Map with fire locations here.

Here in San Francisco proper, we aren’t getting the actual fires, but we are feeling the effects.  When I walked outside with my pugs this morning I felt like I should grab a stick for some s’mores.  The smell of smoke is pervasive throughout NorCal, and the haze is readily evident. The picture to the right is from the hill by our house in SF, just a few miles from the Financial District.  That’s not fog, it’s smoke.

As for the actual firefighting, crews are not expecting to beat most of these for a while.  Many of the fires are in rugged territory, with deep canyons and the like.  So many of them will be burning for a while.  Good luck to the firefighters and those in the area.

Northern California Elected Officials Endorse Jeff Morris

Weaverville, CA, March 21, 2008 —


Trinity County Supervisor Jeff Morris announced today that his campaign to be the Democratic nominee in this fall's race for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's Second Congressional District has begun earning endorsements from northern California’s elected officials. Just four weeks after announcing his run, Morris has received endorsements from Democratic, Republican, and Independent officials at both the county and regional level, including California State Assemblymember Patty Berg.

Other endorsements from elected officials to date include:

– San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon (current president, California State Association of Counties)
– Butte County Supervisor Maureen Kirk
– Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan
– Trinity County Supervisor Roger Jaegel
– Trinity County Supervisor Wendy Reiss
– Trinity County Supervisor Judy Pflueger
– Trinity County Supervisor Howard Freeman
– Chico City Council Member Tom NickelTrinity County Supervisor
-Former Shasta County Supervisor and
CD2 1988 Democratic Nominee Steve Swindeman 

“I am honored to have the support of Assemblymember Patty Berg and of my elected colleagues in the second district,” said Morris. “Many of these officials have been instrumental in helping us achieve positive changes for Trinity County, and I look forward to working with them in the future, both here and in Washington, to address the challenges faced by all of the counties in the 2nd Congressional District.”

Jeff Morris is a Weaverville businessman and entrepreneur who has served Trinity County's Board of Supervisors for the past three years. A 6th-generation descendant of Northern California pioneers with a strong family history of public service, Morris has been a driving force behind Trinity's financial turnaround, helping put the county's only hospital on a new financial footing, spearheading an effort to revise outdated land-use and zoning rules, putting Trinity on a fast track for expansion of rural broadband Internet, and promoting establishment of the Weaverville Community Forest, a sustainable-forestry initiative managed with input from local, timber, and environmental constituencies.

In 2007, Jeff was appointed chairman of the California State Association of Counties' Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and co-chair of its Working Group on Climate Change, which produced a policy framework to guide counties in addressing greenhouse gas emissions while also discouraging a top-down, “one-size-fits-all” regulatory approach. Morris has also been unanimously elected by California’s rural county supervisors for 2 consecutive years to represent rural counties on CSAC’s executive committee. Jeff makes his home in Weaverville with his wife, Judy. More information about Morris and his campaign for California's 2nd Congressional District seat can be found on his campaign website. www.jeffmorrisforcongress.com

CA-04, CA-44: Defenders of Wildlife Getting Involved?

(And if you’re interested in getting rid of Creepy Ken Calvert, check out Bill Hedrick’s DFA page. He’s the first Democrat who’s announced in the 44th, and he seems to be a good progressive. I guess we’ll see if we have a challenger to take on this OFFENDER of wildlife in SoCal. : ) – promoted by atdleft)

You all might remember how Richard Pombo’s exit from the House was given a boost by a coalition of environmentalists calling themselves the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.  They created ads and mailers bashing Pombo’s shoddy record of protecting our natural resources and were quite successful.

They’ve now turned their attentions north to CA-04 and John Doolittle.  In fact, they’re releasing a radio ad attacking Doolittle for his repeated denials of the existence of global warming.  The ads, located at Headinthesand.org, have also been customized for other Western state global warming deniers like CA-44’s Ken Calvert, Arizona’s Rick Renzi, New Mexico’s Steve Pearce, and Nevada’s Dean Heller.

Here’s Doolittle:

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The mini-sites on Doolittle and Calvert have a lot of information like their enviromental legislative scorecards, news updates, and total campaign contributions from industries like oil, automotive, and electric utilities.  You can also take action by sending a constituent letter.

I love when opponents are defined early.  Clearly global warming will continue to be a major issue in 2008, and the Defenders of Wildlife are placing corrupt and vulnerable members like Calvert and Doolittle squarely in the denial camp.  The fact that they are jumping aboard suggests that they see real potential in both of these races.

(P.S. As the end of Q2 nears, you’re going to hear us asking you to donate to Charlie Brown’s campaign a lot, so why don’t you just go to the ActBlue page right now and get it off your to-do list?)