Tag Archives: DWP

Right to Be Worried: LA DWP in Crisis

(see also this Daily Kos post Workers Warn of Crisis at DWP that borrows from this and other earlier posts)

This is a follow-up to my post last week on the LA Department of Water and Power.  While the news stories about the DWP have died down, the workers are continuing to warn the public about the risk of catastrophe at the DWP.  They are working out a way for larger public distribution of the video that is over the flip.  It is the YouTube version of the DVD that the workers passed out to the media and the DWP board last week.

The time to fix our neglected power and water systems is now, before the next natural disaster strikes.  And Dr. Bill Patzert warns in the video, global warming is increasing the number and intensity of extreme heat days, putting an increased strain on our system.  The DWP is stretched so thin that it cannot handle a heat wave, let alone an earthquake.  As one worker so bluntly puts it: “The infrastructure is on it’s last legs.  It is ready to take a dump.”

As the narrator says:

For those familiar with today’s Department of Water and Power, the system’s inability to cope with the strain comes as no surprise.  Management has slashed the number of line crews responsible for critical testing, maintenance and replacement of aging equipment, decades past life expectancy.  As a result, the DWP has no idea where the weak points in the system are and a strapped workforce struggles to maintain, much less upgrade the system.  And any further strain threatens the supply of power and safe drinking water to millions.

Right now 32% of all LAWP pumps are running over capacity and are at risk of failure.  The average age of transmission and distribution equipment is over ten years older than the industry average.  We are now pushing fifty years old on many of our crucial pieces of equipment.  Instead of ramping up staff to replace the equipment over 1,500 positions have been slashed in recent years.  That is the wrong direction.

It’s past time for the DWP to invest in equipment, manpower and upgrades.  So watch the video and help get the word out by passing it along to your social networks.

Can the Citizens of LA Have Confidence that the DWP is Ready for Another Hot Summer?

It’s budget day and this is a fairly local story, but it is important.

One of the best reasons to have a strong labor movement is that unions tend to advocate for issues that benefit many more people than their actual members.  Take what two IBEW Locals are up to in LA, warning the public about the dangers of the Department of Water and Power’s (DWP) failure to ensure the department is prepared to respond in an emergency.

For over a decade, DWP management has been reducing critical staff positions and neglecting routine maintenance. This has left DWP workers frustrated and angry. They are forced to work overtime to make up for staff shortages and then blamed because there is so much overtime. They are forced to use “band-aid” fixes on a system that badly needs real updating and repair. They know that the failure of management at the DWP to address longstanding problems means that the DWP is not ready for another heat wave, like the one that happened in 2006, let alone a major natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The IBEW workers have been highlighting this dangerous lack of preparedness in a series of press releases, direct activism and the production of a DVD exposing the problems at the DWP. They have been rewarded with a nasty editorial in the LA Daily News, attacking their activism. The paper does not disagree about the the problems at the DWP, but uses it to blame the workers for the problems.

THe LADN used it as an opportunity to advocate for privatization and propose that what is really needed is for the workers to give up pay raises so the customers don’t have to pay for a rate hike.  That’s not what voters want. They want the DWP they had in 1994. In 1994, the Northridge earthquake severely damaged the electrical and water infrastructure in Los Angeles. Despite the damage, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power workers swiftly restored safe drinking water and reliable power to the millions of Los Angeles residents who depend on them. The DWP won kudos from everyone for its swift and effective response of DWP workers to the disaster.

That would not be the case today. The DWP is just not prepared to respond to that type of crisis and the LADN admits it. It is the worst sort of cynicism to run a great public utility into the ground and then use that as an excuse to privatize it. What happened with the Enron scandal and the power crisis of the early 2000s proves that when private industry takes over, then ratepayers suffer.

As noted above, the salaries of DWP workers are higher largely because they are forced to work overtime due to the chronic understaffing. If the DWP was fully staffed, there would much much less need for overtime. And really, is the LADN literally asking that workers shoulder the cost of strengthening the system, rather than the consumers? Talk about ballsy. That will really work towards fixing the hiring crisis.

The DVD has been getting a lot of attention.  There has been a number of local TV stories on the direct action by the electrical workers and they have played clips from the DVD.  Check out this KNBC story.

The DWP may not like the tactic, but they generally agree with what the electrical workers are saying.  They need to hire more workers.  The system is vulnerable and they need to work to fix it.  At issue is the pace and the scope of the changes.  The workers have tried for a long time to work behind the scenes.  Frustrated, they are taking their case to the public, much like the grocery workers did with their contract negotiations.  This is not about salaries and benefits, though those are important too.  It is about public safety and working conditions.

We need to ensure that our infrastructure is safe and capable of responding in a crisis.  The more that we can watchdog what our public utilities boards are doing the better.  I am working on getting the DVD in YouTube format and will post it when I can.  Watch the news clip, pass this post around to friends and family in LA.  It’s time to raise public awareness, before it is too late.

For more information check out the DWP tag at Working Californians.

Note: this post is a compilation of several from Working Californians.  The IBEW Locals involved are lead by the two co-chairs of WC.