The views expressed in any article published in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Joseph Foster or Bob Lupoli.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

California's DWP pays $74,408 to Parking Lot Attendants

Joe:  what's wrong with America - California. I really don’t need to say anymore, just read below. I imagine this union has similar arrangements in all of California’s major cities but then again maybe not? By the way I don’t know how this can can say yes – rate hikes are NOT justified. Of course it's no coincidence that the IBEW is, "is among the biggest campaign contributors in Los Angeles". One dirty hand washes the other. -Bob

L.A. DWP's gold-platedjobs

For a utility that pays parking attendants $74,408 a year, are rate hikes justified? Unfortunately, yes.

February 10, 2012
Few kids grow up dreaming of becoming a parking lot attendant, but the job can be quite lucrative — at least if you land one at the L.A. Department of Water and Power. According to a report in Bloomberg News, garage monitors at the DWP made, on average, $74,408 a year; nationally, the average salary for this position is $21,250.

That's just one of many eye-popping figures unveiled by Bloomberg, which found that DWP workers make on average 40% more than other city of Los Angeles employees, even when they're doing nearly identical jobs. For example, carpenters at the DWP averaged $102,732 in 2010, compared with $65,201 at the general services department. DWP auto painters pulled down an average of $109,192, compared with $59,901 at the Fire Department. Overall, utility employees had an average salary of $96,805, while other city employees averaged $68,822.

The reason for these inflated salaries isn't mysterious. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is among the biggest campaign contributors in Los Angeles, which means that at contract time, the DWP union finds itself in the enviable position of negotiating with city politicians who may owe their own jobs to the union.

It's little wonder that L.A. voters and ratepayers, most of whom can only dream of getting the gold-plated retirement packages and high salaries that are awarded to DWP workers, resent the City Council's frequent votes to raise utility rates. They were hit again Wednesday when the council approved a 2.9% hike for water rates, and even steeper annual increases are planned for the next three years. Yet for all the justified populist outrage, there's still a genuine need to raise DWP rates. DWP salaries are built into the utility's operating expenses, but the current rate hikes are needed to pay rising capital costs connected with higher prices for water and electricity, meeting federal and state standards for drinking water and switching to renewable power. Failure to approve the rate increases could result in fines costing ratepayers more than the increases.

That doesn't mean the DWP, or the City Council, gets a free pass. After dragging its feet for months, the council has finally appointed a voter-mandated ratepayer advocate who will, we hope, come up with benchmarks that compare DWP salaries and benefits with those at comparable public and private utilities. Meanwhile, it's the City Council's job to bargain on behalf of constituents, not to give sweetheart deals to campaign contributors, and voters can and should respond by kicking violators of that rule out of office. And ultimately, if union contracts become so bloated that the DWP can no longer deliver service at lower cost than private utilities such as Southern California Edison while meeting similar renewable power mandates, it will be time to question whether Los Angeles needs a public utility at all.

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