Utility Companies Put Corporate Power Over Electrical Power
The northeast and mid-Atlantic regions are finally coming out of the brutal heat wave they've been experiencing over the past week. But the heat wave hasn't been the only thing threatening people's electric service in those areas. In New York, Consolidated Edisoncontinuesto lock out 8,500 workers, while in the Washington, DC, area, recovery from the late June derecho storm that knocked out power for millions has been slow thanks toinadequateresponse by Pepco.
Con Ed will resume negotiations with their locked-out workers' union on Tuesday after continuing negotiations late last week failed to yield progress—Con Ed isn't willing to let workers back on the job and give them a contract until they make huge concessions, and workers aren't willing to sign a contract that cuts their benefits sharply. Some New York City neighborhoods faced brownouts as managers tried to keep up with needed repairs.
Pepco workers are still on the job. But, according to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Pepco just plain doesn't have enough workers to handle emergencies like this:
For Washington, D.C., Local 1900 Business Manager Jim Griffin, Pepco’s trouble in keeping the lights on is the direct result of the company’s refusal to recruit and train a new generation of linemen.Pepco has half the linemen and double the number of customers it did 20 years ago.Griffin, who represents more than 1,000 Pepco employees, says the full-time line repair crew on staff was more than 200 when first started at the company 39 years ago. Today it is less than 100.
Deregulation allowed Pepco to cut its maintenance staff; the power company is also allowed to raise rates to get back what it loses during blackouts, so it has no incentive to provide better service. Meanwhile, both Pepco and Con Ed paid a negative state corporate income tax rate and a negative federal income tax rate (PDF) in at least one recent year.
Between Pepco cutting maintenance positions to the point where the company is effective only at making money and not at delivering services and Con Ed locking its workers out in the name of squeezing them mercilessly, it's clear that it's not just workers who lose out to corporate power, but customers—who in this case literally lose power.