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Tue Jul 10, 2012, 03:55 PM

Thom Hartmann: Is Union busting to blame for the power outages in DC? (video xpost)

Saw this in the Video & Multimedia forum:


Thom Hartmann: Is Union busting to blame for the power outages in DC?

Mike Elk, In These Times, Vince Coglianese, Daily Caller & Sam Sacks, progressive commentator join Thom Hartmann. In Scranton, Pennsylvania - despite winning a legal battle, police and firefighters unions have lost a battle with the city over their wages. Last week - the Mayor of Scranton, Chris Doherty, announced that the pay of 398 unionized public workers will be slashed down to minimum wage - just $7.25 an hour. The mayor argued his city simply cannot afford to pay the unionized workers anymore money. Unions are also suffering in other cash-strapped cities. In Detroit - Financial Managers are laying off hundreds of unionized teachers - shutting down public schools - and replacing them with private charter schools that pay non-union teachers less and and have a much higher turnover rate of teachers. We've also seen the decline of organized labor on a state level across America. From Wisconsin - where collective bargaining rights were stripped from public sector unions - to Indiana, which just this year became a right-to-work state. There are now 23 states in America that have adopted right-to-work laws, which make it a lot harder for unions to operate. In the post-World War 2 Era - working Americans were able to achieve a comfortable middle class lifestyle with a decent paycheck thanks to unions. But since 1980 - union rates - especially in the private sector - have rapidly declined - and right alongside with it - so has the middle class's share of national income. More than a third of the workforce in America belonged to a union in the 1950's - but today - it's around a tenth of the workforce - and less than 7% of private workers belong to a union currently. So what impact has the destruction of organized labor had on our economy and our communities? Is it time to beging thinking about new ways to organize labor beyond the traditional union model? And conversely, as unions have declines - and corporate power increased - is it time to start re-think the idea of corporate capitalism altogether? Plus - how is the erosion of union labor harmed the DC area's ability to turn the electricity back on following the freak storms a week ago?

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann on RT TV & FSTV "live" 9pm and 11pm check www.thomhartmann.com/tv for local listings

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Reply Thom Hartmann: Is Union busting to blame for the power outages in DC? (video xpost) (Original post)
bananas Jul 2012 OP
bananas Jul 2012 #1

Response to bananas (Original post)

Tue Jul 10, 2012, 04:02 PM

1. Related article at inthesetimes.com


Friday Jul 6, 2012 10:56 am

Is Union Busting to Blame for Power Outages in D.C.?

By Mike Elk

Yesterday, 15,091 Washington, D.C.-area residents were without power for the sixth day in a row, according to utility company Pepco spokesman Marcus Beal. As D.C. residents face record heat waves, many are upset and attribute the lack of power to incompetence on Pepco's end. However, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1900 members claim the failure to restore power outages is due to chronic understaffing and Pepco’s shift from hiring union utility workers to non-union temporary contractors.

“We have half the linemen we had 15 years ago,” says IBEW Local 1900 Business Agent Jim Griffin, whose union represents 1,150 Pepco workers. “We have been complaining for a very long time. They have relied for a long time on contractors. They are transients, they don’t know our system, and we typically have to go behind them to fix their mistakes. It’s very frustrating. We take ownership in our work, we make careers out of this.”

Griffin says that starting 15 years ago, Pepco stopped hiring workers to replace retiring electrical workers and offered incentive-laden buyout deals to get electricians to retire. In order to address understaffing problems, Pepco has at times hired non-union temporary contractors, instead of hiring new workers. Griffin estimates that Pepco currently employs 1,150 union workers and approximately 400 non-union contractors. The understaffing has led to problems that the IBEW warned about years ago.


Despite having a negative -57% tax rate from 2008 to 2010 and making nearly $822 million in profits during that period, Pepco has not hired a sufficient number of electricians to properly maintain the system. Griffin claims the insufficient number of linemen causes Pepco's system to go out more often not just during storms, but on hot summer days when electrical grids are maxed out from air conditioners and fans. When big storms do hit and knock down the system, PEPCO hires outside contractors from far-away states to help in repairs.


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