Tag Archives: IBEW

Don’t Ban Chula Vista Jobs – Vote No on Prop G

A broad-based coalition of labor, civic and business leaders are calling on voters in Chula Vista, Calif., to vote no on Tuesday, June 8 on an anti-union ballot initiative -Proposition G.  

Spearheaded by the Associated Builders and Contractors and out-of-state right-wing political groups, Proposition G would prohibit the Southern California city from using project labor agreements for government-funded construction work.

PLAs are project-specific, pre-hire collective bargaining agreements that set out terms and conditions of employment on construction projects.

For many Chula Vista business and civic leaders, Proposition G is so radical that it would threaten the city’s economic development; costing Chula Vista needed jobs and money

Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Cohen told La Prensa San Diego:

Proposition G is bad for business. The top priority of the business community in Chula Vista is job creation and it has become clear that Proposition G appears to interfere with that mission. The potential consequences of Proposition G are so devastating for Chula Vista that a supermajority of the Chamber’s board voted to oppose it.

Nearly every elected official, including the mayor and the majority of the city council have come out against measure.

For building trades members, passage of the initiative would spell disaster, cutting out union members from working on most construction projects in Chula Vista and banning the city from making payments into a union benefits’ fund.

“If they pass it here, ABC is bragging that they will take it across California,” said Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569 Business Manager Allen Shur.

This effort is a part of the ABC’s “10 in 2010” campaign in California that is designed to get local jurisdictions to enact policies to prohibit PLAs.  

Says Building Trades President Mark Ayers in a letter to union leaders:

(ABC) has already succeeded in Orange County, and the next fight is Chula Vista.  If they win here, they will have momentum going into other fights in California, and you can rest assured that we will see this strategy replicated in short order in other states.

With polling showing a tight split among voters, the No on G coalition is planning to contact more than 30,000 of them and get them to the polls.

Building trades leaders are focusing on educating their members, making sure that they know that this is an anti-union measure.  

“We’ve spent the last couple months walking precincts, making sure everyone knows that Proposition G is bad for Chula Vista,” Shur said.

“Our opponents have already spent more than $3 million on this campaign. We don’t have that kind of cash, so we are relying on our grassroots efforts to get out the vote,” he said.

To get involved in the No on G campaign, click here.

IBEW Organizer Looks to Unionize Green Industry

There are not many union locals with an environmental organizer on staff.

But because the renewable energy industry is a growth sector in a slow economy, Electrical Workers union (IBEW) local Local 569 in San Diego is sparing no effort to make sure jobs working with green technology are pathways to good-paying careers.

In a recent interview with CleanTechies blog, Local 569 Environmental Organizer Micah Mitrosky talks about her job:

Our mission is to make sure that as our economy shifts to a low-carbon, sustainable economy, that we’re creating middle-class jobs with health benefits, skilled career opportunities … We want to make sure that, as we’re bringing in these new greener technologies and new green ways of doing things, that we’re replacing those with better middle-class career opportunities.

While most of the economy contracted last year, the renewable energy sector saw record growth and is gearing up for an even bigger year in 2010. And thanks to Local 569’s commitment to aggressive marketing and advanced training, it has successfully been making inroads into the green energy industry.

As reported in the March issue of the Electrical Worker, the IBEW’s monthly newspaper:

(D)espite a sluggish construction market, the alternative energy sector-particularly solar photovoltaics-continues to be a vibrant and growing part of California’s economy and it is keeping members of Local 569 busy.

“Without all the solar work, our unemployment rate would be twice as a high,” says Local 569 Business Manager Allen Shur.

More than 10 percent of the 2,200-member local are busy installing and maintaining solar panels on commercial projects. Solar power has even allowed the local to crack the traditionally nonunion residential market.

“One of our contractors did more than 800 homes alone,” Shur said.

Mitrosky, a former Sierra Club organizer, says she faces many of the same challenges that confront most union organizers.

We’re running into the same things with (the) industry that we’ve always run into. They’re working hard to keep wages low, offshore jobs, cut corners on safety if it means a few cents more in profits.  It’s the same old story that unions have faced for a century.

But despite the obstacles, she says she is hopeful about the growing partnership between the alternative energy industry and the IBEW.

We’re looking at the electric car. I know that’s going to require a lot of skilled electrical work … I’m looking at some energy efficiency retrofit possibilities. Are there some ways to partner with municipalities here in our region?  Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit. It’s a way to create jobs quickly, save electricity right away, reduce your greenhouse gases and there’s a lot of public funds and utility funds available for that.

To read the whole interview, click here.  

IBEW Green Training Facilities Open Its Doors to Congress

During the Memorial Day break, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will invite congressional representatives to tour union job-training centers around the country to show them why they are the right choice when it comes to creating a renewable energy work force.

“The IBEW has developed one of the most advanced green training curriculums in the electrical industry and it makes sense that federal and state authorities partner with those who are already doing the work to meet the needs of greening our economy,” said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill.

From retrofitting buildings to installing wind turbines, new opportunities are opening up in the green energy sector as millions of stimulus dollars are made available for training and investment in the new energy economy.  

But expected rapid growth of those jobs will require tens of thousands of skilled electricians who can safely and professionally install and wire solar panels, wind turbines and biofuel plants, a demand that it is already being met by the IBEW.

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee – a partnership between the IBEW and union electrical contractors – unveils its Green Jobs Curriculum next month, which collects more than 70 green training lessons the NJATC has been using into one single curriculum.

The comprehensive program, which covers everything from automated building operations to solar photovoltaics, will be woven into the fabric of current IBEW apprenticeship training and will serve as a resource for more experience electricians looking to upgrade their skills in the growing green jobs market.

“If Congress is looking to invest stimulus money wisely in training a new green work force, they don’t have to look any further than one of our training centers,” Hill said.


Some of the centers that will be open for tours include:

Pittsburgh Local 5’s 47,000 square-foot facility has trained more than 1,000 electricians since it opened in 2000. This year there have been more 400 applications for the program, the most interest the local has seen in years, said Training Director Bob Gieder.  Next fall, the center will be kicking off a solar installation “train-the-trainer” program to turn out skilled solar instructors to serve Western Pennsylvania.

Lisle, Ill., Local 701’s 90,000 square-foot facility has received many awards for architectural design since it first opened more than five years ago, but the real action is inside, says Training Director Edward Rossi. Nearly 100 apprentices are getting hands-on experience with solar and wind hook-ups by practicing on solar arrays and wind turbines on site.  

The training centers not only guarantee that the sustainable energy industry will be staffed by the best-trained electrical workers, but they make sure that green jobs are good-paying union ones that will grow the middle class and put our economy back on the road to recovery.

Community colleges across the United States are reporting a surge in enrollment for classes that offer training for green-collar jobs.

But while the average college student ends up more than $20,000 in debt by the time they graduate, IBEW apprentices start making money the moment they are accepted into a five-year program, which combines both classroom and on-the-job training.

“They earn while they learn,” Gieder said. “Where else do you get paid for learning how to do a job?”

“Decent wages and benefits mean that our apprentices can stay in the area and contribute to their community,” Le Sueur, Minn., Local 343 Training Director Andy Toft said. “They become taxpayers, buy homes and cars and make their neighborhoods a good place to raise a family.”

U.S. Representative Barney Frank: Spurs Crowd to Work for Pettis for 80th Assembly District

U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), dean of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and Congressmember from the Massachusetts 4th CD, gave a stirring speech early this evening to spur local Progressive Democratic activists to action on behalf of Cathedral City Councilmember Greg Pettis in his bid to replace the termed-out Bonnie Garcia (R) in the CA 80th Assembly District.  Pettis is in his 14th year as Cathedral City Councilmember and has served as Cathedral City Mayor Pro-Tem.  Frank noted in his talk that State government always benefits from having someone of Pettis’ caliber move from local government to the State Assembly.

Frank, as usual, a combination entertainer, progressive Democratic rabble-rouser, and spiritual leader to thousands in the 80th AD, spoke about the failures of the Bush Administration in the areas of the environment, the economy, and education.  Sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes assertive, and oftentimes Barney Frank, he delighted his audience with stories of Washington, D.C., and hopes for California and the 80th AD.  Frank attacked the incompetence of the Bush Administration and the ambivalence of the Republicans towards freedom of speech.  Frank noted that the monies wantonly spent during election campaigns is necessary and is protected under ‘Freedom of Speech.’  However, according to Frank, the financing of campaigns is one of the few areas where Republicans seem interested in protecting Freedom of Speech.  Frank exhorted the attendees to help to fund Pettis’ bid for the 80th AD, especially in light of the appalling amounts of monies being spent by the AFL-CIO-labeled rogue union and associations on behalf of the pretender to the Democratic nomination.

More below the flip…

Frank was introduced to the almost 200 attendees by Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, co-host to the event.  Pougnet discussed Franks’ leadership in the LGBT community and his recent work as Chair of the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representative to help those severely affected by the mismanagement of the Bush Administration’ housing and financial policies.  Frank noted that Pres. Ronald Reagan spoke about a ‘rising tide lifting all ships.’  However, according to Frank, if one could not afford a ship, then one is face with certain difficulty in a rising tide, standing on tippy-toe.

The Barney Frank fundraiser was hosted by Andy Linsky, boardmember of the Human Rights Campaign, and his partner, in their Little Tuscany home in Palm Springs overlooking the Coachella Valley.  This is the type of home and living situation that certain bloggers from the Victor Manuel Perez campaign derides as ‘the West Valley elite.’  Perhaps the blogger forgets for what the American dreams stands.

Following Franks’ strong endrosement of  Pettis as a leader in the local community, a man of extensive governmental experience and expertise, and a stellar representative of the LGBT community, Frank turned the ‘podium’ over to Pettis.  Frank also noted that the results for LGBT candidates in the California June primary will affect the results of the November proposition banning Marriage Equality.  For sure, he indicated, the California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Desert Sun, will report that the success of LGBT candidates bodes poorly for the proposition should the LGBT candidates fare well across the state.  However, should LGBT candidates fare less than expected or surprisingly poorly, then the media will report that that bodes poorly for the November proposition from the LGBT perspective.

Pettis discussed his start in politics with his experience forty years ago next week with attendance at a Bobby Kennedy rally in California, a week prior to his assassination.  Pettis took his lead from Kennedy’s commitment to government as a response to peoples’ needs and began his quest to improve people’s economic situations, to protect the environment, and to improve their schools.  The attendees responded with resounding applause and cheers.

With the focus on improving the State and local eocnomies, protecting the environment, and improving the local schools and protecting them from the proposed budget cuts, Pettis held true to the central themes of his Progressive Democratic campaign.

Palm Springs City Councilmember Ginny Foat followed Pettis with a discussion about recent events of the campaign.  She discussed Pettis’ consistent support for the families of the Coachella Valley, for the CA National Organization for Women and freedom of choice, and for Marriage Equality and LGBT issues.  Foat indicated that the Coachella and Imperial Valleys could not afford to have someone inexperienced and with less-than-adequate success as State Assemblymember.  The 80th AD has had enough of that with Garcia.  This writer’s thinking is that although a janitor might be a good representative in theory, an ill-equipped maintenance engineer is not up to the job of helping the Coachella and Imperial Valleys with the economic, environmental, and educational challenges of the 21st Century.

Foat focused on the appalling amount of money that the AFL-CIO-labled rogue union is spending on independent expenditures thus far:  $450,000.  This writer wonders how the SEUI member who typically makes $18,000 to $24,000 per annum would respond to finding out that his/her union is spending his/her union dues in this manner.  And, just what might the ‘rogue union’ expect in return from Perez should he win the nomination?  Foat extolled the fundraiser attendees to meet the challenge.  She noted that with the problems that Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley communities face, they are unable to approach State Assemblymember Garcia to assist given her poor legislative skills and reputation in Sacramento.  Foat discussed the need for someone like Pettis with his experience and legislative skills in order to work for the peoples of the Coachella and Imperial Valleys.

Following Foat’s cajolling, Linsky again took the ‘podium’ and discussed the fact that he was reminded that he himself was at the Ambassador Hotel in the second ballroom when Kennedy was assassinated 40 years ago.  This experience also set him on his path to public service.  He enjoined attendees to join him in supporting Pettis and the campaign.

Elected attendees at the Frank fundraiser included Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, Palm Springs Mayor Pro-Tem Ginny Foat, Palm Springs City Councilmember Rick Hutcheson, Desert Water Agency Trustee Craig Ewing, Candidate for Palm Springs Unified School District Greg Rodriguez, Cathedral City Councilmember and Candidate for Cathedral City Mayor Paul Marchand, and Desert Hot Springs Councilmember Karl Baker.

Other local Progressive Democratic activists in attendance included Desert Hot Springs Vice-President Chuck McDaniel, Central Labor Council AFL-CIO of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties Executive Secretary-Treasurer Laurie Stalnaker, City of Riverside Arts & Cultural Affairs Manager Jonathan Yorba, Ph.D., Pass Democratic Club President and Riverside County Democratic Central Committeemember Jaqueline Atwood, Pass Democratic Club Treasurer and Vets for Peace Boardmember Robert Atwood, Pass Democratic Club Recording Secretary David Knight, Palm Springs Democratic Club Co-Chair Sandy Eldridge, Palm Springs Democratic Club Secretary Peter East, Democratic Women of the Desert Member Nikki Stone, Desert Stonewall Democratic Club President George Zander, Desert Stonewall Democratic Club Treasurer Bob Silverman, and Desert Stonewall Democratic Club Steering Committee Members Donald W. Grimm, Ph.D., Richard Oberhaus, Greg Rodriguez, Robert Lee Thomas, and Lynn Worley.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the United Healthcare Workers, and the Central Labor Council AFL-CIO of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties amongst other unions had various members in attendance including Chuck McDaniel, IBEW Local 440, Laurie Stalnaker, Central Labor Council AFL-CIO of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, Joe Duffle, and others.  Having been a union member of District Council 37, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, New York City’s largest municipal employee’s union and having had to walk a picket line when necessary, these Progressive Democratic leaders and activists hold a special place in this gay boyz’ heart.

Vets for Peace activists attending included Robert Atwood, Tom Swann, and Tracy Turner.  In addition, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Co-Leaders Mike and Carol Balassa cajolled their friends and fully embraced the spirit of the event.  Carol spoke of the need to continue to work to protect the newly-sanctioned Marriage Equality especially in the face of ongoing fanatacism of the fringe-right and their fellow travellers in the Coachella Valley.

All-in-all, a good day for democracy and the progressive Democratic movement in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys.  More on the doings at the Frank fundraiser and pictures to follow in the blog of BluePalmSpringsBoyz on the online ediation of the Desert Sun, mydesert.com.

Multiple Union and Democratic Club Endorsements for Pat Meagher for Congress in the 41st

Pat Meagher, Progressive Democratic Candidate for the 41st Congressional District, has received endorsements from multiple Union and Democratic Clubs.  A Forest Falls resident and Principle of Fontana Adult School he has gathered the support of the Mojave Desert Democratic Club, East Valley Democratic Club, Stonewall Democratic Club,

Greater Rialto Dual Endorsement, Desert Hot Springs Democratic Club and The Democratic Club of Big Bear Valley. His Union endorsements include IBEW Local 440, UAW Region 5 Western United States CAP Council, California Labor Federation’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), San Bernardino/Riverside Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, San Bernardino/Riverside Building and Trades Council, and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 12.

This father of nine, seven of whom are adopted, has also gotten the attention of Progressive Democrats of America Dr. Bill Honigman, So CA State Organizer, who was the Keynote speaker at Pat Meagher’s fundraising event held at University of Redlands. Ahjamu Makalani evoked Meagher’s name and sloganas an inspiration to a standing room only crowd at the State Democratic Convention PDA Caucus.  Meagher embraces the entire PDA platform including their current campaign for Healthcare Not Warfare.

The war is real for the Meagher family.  Their newly married son will be returning to Iraq this summer for a second tour, as well as a daughter whose first tour was in Afghanistan.  To thunderous applause at Arlington West Santa Monica following Col. Ann Wright (Ret), Meagher declared “Don’t tell me I don’t support the troops.  Those are my kids. It is time to bring our glorious and victorious troops home!”

Col. Ann Wright, 29 year Army Veteran, 13 year United States Diplomat, was so impressed after meeting with Meagher that she adjusted her schedule in order to share the podium with him when he announced his candidacy to a crowd of community leaders and peace and justice activists from the Inland Empire at the Carriage House in Redlands.

Pat Meagher is proud that his campaign is funded through grassroots supporters who believe he is the best man to represent their concerns in Washington DC.  


International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 440 Endorses Greg Pettis in CA 80th Assembly

XPosted 5/23/2008 1:14 AM PDT on MyDesert.com in Blog by BluePalmSpringsBoyz

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 440 has endorsed Pettis in his race to replace Bonnie Garcia.  IBEW Local 440 has long been active in Coachella Valley politics and Progressive Democratic circles.

Chuck McDaniel, an IBEW Local 440 leader and activist, had previously endorsed Pettis for the 80th AD.  McDaniel is also Vice-President of the newly formed Desert Hot Springs Democratic Club and is a member of the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee.

Garcia is termed out and cannot run for re-election.

More below the flip…

The good news for Proud Progressive Democrats is that the Coachella Valley is trending blue with last year’s wins by Steve Pougnet for Mayor of Palm Springs, by Rick Hutcheson in the Palm Springs City Council, by Karl Baker in the Desert Hot Springs City Council, by Greg Pettis in the Cathedral City City Council, by Craig Ewing in the Desert Water Agency, and No on C.  Garcia barely won re-election in the last race against a little-known candidate and poorly-funded, Steve Clute, who did not have the backing of all of the Democratic clubs because of his opposition to Marriage Equality.

In addition, Democrats now out-register Republicans by more than 15,000 voters!  The voter registration figures are also trending Democratic across the district from Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, and Cathedral City in the West Valley to Indio, Coachella, and even Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, and Palm Desert in Down Valley.  Add to this the fact that Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Coachella, and Indio all went for Kerry/Edwards in 2004 makes the 80th AD ripe for the pickings of an experienced Progressive Democratic candidate with the credentials of Pettis.

Pettis has a well-funded, well-oiled candidacy and has already outraised and outspent all of his competitors combined in FundRace 2008!  in the last reporting period, Pettis also outraised his presumptive Republican opponent, Gary Jeandron.  In addition, Pettis already has endorsements from all of the local Democratic clubs who have endorsed, including the Pass Democratic Club, the Desert Hot Springs Democratic Club, the Desert Stonewall Democrats, Inland Stonewall Democrats, the Palm Springs Democratic Club, the San Diego Democratic Club, and the San Diego Democratic Women’s Club.

Other labor organizations already endorsing Pettis include the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Building Trades of California, California AFL-CIO, Cathedral City Professional Firefighters, San Bernardino/Riverside Counties Central Labor Council, San Diego/Imperial Counties Central Labor Council, and Teamsters Joint Council 42.

IBEW Local 440 Endorses Greg Pettis in CA 80th Assembly District Race

Re full disclosure, BlueBeaumontBoyz is a supporter and friend of Greg Pettis for Assembly.

According to Richard Oberhaus, Campaign Director for the Greg Pettis for 80th Assembly District Campaign, as of yesterday, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 440 has now endorsed Pettis in his race to replace Bonnie Garcia.  IBEW Local 440 has long been active in Coachella Valley politics and Progressive Democratic circles.

Chuck McDaniel, a IBEW Local 440 leader and activist, is also a co-leader of the newly formed Desert Hot Springs Democratic Club, is a member of the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee, and attended the recent Pettis Campaign for 80th AD website preview.

Garcia, aka Barfcia due to her various verbal indiscretions and embarrassments to the District, is currently termed out and, pending defeat of the proposed ballot initiative to extend term limits, cannot again run for re-election.

The good news for Proud Progressive Democrats is that the Coachella Valley is trending blue with recent wins by Steve Pougnet for Mayor of Palm Springs, by Rick Hutcheson in the Palm Springs City Council, by Karl Baker in the Desert Hot Springs City Council, by Greg Pettis in the Cathedral City City Council, by Craig Ewing in the Desert Water Agency, and No on C.  Garcia barely won re-election in the last race against a little-known candidate, Steve Clute, who did not have the backing of all of the Democratic clubs because of his opposition to Marriage Equality.

In addition, Democrats now out-register Repugnants by 9% of the voters, i.e., 13,000 votes!  The voter registration figures are also trending Democratic across the district from Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, and Cathedral City in the West Valley to Indio, Coachella, and even Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, and Palm Desert in Down Valley.

Pettis has a well-funded, well-oiled candidacy and has already outraised all of his competitors combined in FundRace 2008!  In addition, Pettis already has endorsements from four of the local Democratic clubs, including the Pass Democratic Club, Desert Stonewall Democrats, Inland Stonewall Democrats, and San Diego Democratic Club.

Other labor organizations already endorsing Pettis include Building Trades of California, Cathedral City Professional Firefighters, and San Bernardino/Riverside Central Labor Council.

LADN Endangers Workers, Public to Score a Political Point

This piece of mine for Working Californians is now up on FDL.  So go over there to check out the rest.  My favorite is the tidbit I got last night: a worker calling to complain was told by the editor: “I’m not after you, I am after [IBEW President] Brian D’Arcy.”

The Daily News is well known for being virulently anti-worker. Basically, the paper takes the position that everyone should be making poor wages and grateful for having a job, no matter how dangerous. The paper supports privatization and job outsourcing and routinely editorializes against workers’ rights issues.

The other week, the paper published a breathless report about the salaries of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) employees, publishing the name, job title and corresponding salary of all employees in a searchable online database, in tandem with an article about how much they make.

The editor went so far as to put up a note at the head of the article, urging people to read the article and “see how your pay compares with theirs.” This is a divisive attempt to try and depress the salaries of other city employees who are currently in contract negotiations with the city. The Daily News wanted to influence the bargaining process by publicly smearing the LADWP workers. (The paper has since pulled the article, but this link still includes the editor’s note.)

What they ended up doing was putting the workers-and all of us who depend on water and power systems-at risk. Typically when salary information is released for reasons of public transparency, only job titles are listed, not full names. By publishing names, the paper opened up a treasure trove of information for would-be saboteurs. Imagine how much damage someone could do by creating a fake badge, complete with real name and title to get access to our water and power system.

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.