Turlock City News

Turlock City News

TID GM “Lost Respect” For Lineworkers Union After 2012 Outage

David Fransen|

The ongoing dispute between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Turlock Irrigation District management spilled over into Tuesday morning’s TID Board meeting, with an airing of grievances dominating the public comment period.

The dispute dates back to December 2011, when the IBEW’s contract with the TID expired. The union has been working under the terms of its past contract since then.

The dispute came to a head in September, 2012, when a power outage left 49 TID customers without electricity for 45 hours. During that weekend outage TID staff attempted many times to contact line crews, represented by IBEW, to no avail. All qualified TID electric workers did not answer their phones when called for help. While there are other electricians, such as this electrician in Chehalis WA, who did help those in need, they had to travel in from other areas.

TID then requested assistance from multiple nearby utilities, but their IBEW-represented crews declined to help. Private electric contractors were called to help, but were convinced to leave by IBEW members.

It was that weekend that was the turning point for TID General Manager Casey Hashimoto, he said Tuesday morning.

“I lost respect for you guys that weekend,” Hashimoto said.

That outage led TID to hire an outside consultant, American Sitebuilders, of Texas, in February. The decision came after the board heard from those affected by the outage, and people using medical devices reliant on electricity, according to TID Board of Directors chair Micheal Frantz

TID crews have a choice, after hours and on weekends, whether they choose to work or not. The contractor is there to respond when TID crews choose not to, Frantz said.

“This board felt it was in the best interest of our ratepayers, and those who could not help themselves, to hire those who would be willing to work when the phone rang,” Frantz said.

Since ASB was hired, TID crews have chosen to volunteer for all calls that came in.

Contractors a Waste of Money, Lineworkers Say

Lineworkers say that TID never tried to talk to them about the incident, and that Hashimoto never called on Monday morning after the outage. And lineworkers say they plead with TID management to hire more lineworkers in April 2012, months before the outage, because there simply aren’t enough TID employees, effectively forcing lineworkers to work extensive amounts of overtime.

According to TID spokesperson Michelle Reimers, the district has 33 qualified electric line workers. Of those, 24 are split into five crews, while the other nine perform line maintenance work such as troubleshooting. Lineworkers say the district used to have nine full crews.

Employees in the TID line department have worked 15,471 hours of overtime so far this year. The total includes overtime worked not just by linemen, but by meter technicians, transformer and tool technicians, dispatchers, and an administrative assistant. In most cases, the request to work is on a voluntary basis, Reimers said.

That burden could be reduced if the district hired more lineworkers, rather than contractors, lineworkers say. Lineworkers can perform the work more cost-effectively, while keeping money local.

Lineworkers allege that the contractors have been overpaid by millions, in part due to a decision to pay per-unit rather than per-hour for their first six-to-seven weeks of work. Additionally, lineworkers allege that contractors are being paid to sit on standby and do nothing.

Frantz said the district has been pleased with the contractors’ productivity.

ASB is not paid for standby, only for actual work performed, Reimers said, including two hours of double-time per day. Based on all 2013 invoices, ASB has been paid $2.03 million, including labor and equipment for contract crews, Reimers said.

And the use of contractors like Safe T Lite of Modesto, a construction firm that supplies flagmen to TID, saves the district money, Frantz said. Rather than pay a journeyman electrician to hold a sign, a lower wage can be paid while the electrician is freed up to work on line jobs.

Some lineworkers allege that the hiring of contractors stems from a long-seated desire to break up the union. According to Ken Gross, a retired TID lineworker, Hashimoto has held a “vengeance” toward lineworkers since 2008, when he allegedly illegally took hours off of employee time cards.

The district is not aware of Hashimoto illegally removing hours from any employee timecard, TID spokesperson Michelle Reimers said.

Building Bridges?

Hashimoto held a meeting with the lineworkers in July of this year, his first since the September 2012 outage, as part of an initiative to talk about important TID issues with every department.

“We had a very good meeting,” Hashimoto said. “It was very respectful. I was very pleased with how it went.”

But the ongoing contract negotiations, and the weekend in September 2012, were off-limits for discussion. That irked lineworkers, who wanted to talk about those issues.

And an argument broke out Tuesday morning over why Hashimoto held that July meeting with lineworkers, with some alleging the meeting was held only after lineworkers asked to discuss the robbery of a lineman at gunpoint.

TID Board candidate Darrel Monroe called Hashimoto a liar, prompting Frantz to call Monroe “Out of line.”

“Don’t p*** down my leg and tell me it’s raining,” Monroe shouted to the board, before storming out of the room. He later returned.

Comments 17

  1. Fred says:

    Let’s get one thing straight. Casey Hashimoto NEVER had any respect for the people that do this kind of work! How does the board hire him from within? Multi million dollar companies find CEO’s from outside their companies. That way they dont hire someone that owes someone something, or has an agenda ( This is the case here). beThey said they did a search across the country, and he was the best they could find? Ms Reimers should be aware that he took time off the line employees timecards. The resolution to that illegal act is on the last last page of the line employees expired contract!!! Then once he became the GM, he basically issued the same memo that now takes time off of every line employee that currently takes a call after regular hours! So Ms Reimers, Its happening NOW!

  2. Thanks Alex says:

    As a TID employee, I just wanted to thank the writer for publishing an accurate article that explained both sides of this situation

  3. Retired Ditch-tender says:

    In my opinion the linemen are asking for too much money. They left the electric customers hanging out to dry when they were not available on the weekend. That was a planned outage with dire consequences to people. 😀 They need to quit whining and go back to work. Ken Gross needs to stop drinking his whiskey before coming to a TID meeting. I heard that the linemen are planning another walk out.

  4. Worker says:

    It’s funny that Casey hashimoto forgot to state that the Friday before the sept 29 incident. His management team sent a memo down to the lineman saying that if they spent more than 35 minutes at a restaurant while they were working they would be decplined and written up. Can u and your family go to a restaurant and sit down and eat in 35 minutes? And if u work all weekend, 20 maybe 30 hours straight would u want to live off of fast food? I didn’t think so. It’s funny how they never bring up that memo, instead they keep saying a labor dispute. Would you come to work overtime if you were going to be deciplined? I didn’t think so!

  5. an outsider says:

    LOL @ calling the “electricians” No way could an electrician do the things these professionals do. I feel sorry for the linemen.

  6. Just Watching says:

    Maybe Ms Reimers can’t see the facts because she is too busy batting her eyes at all the board members. Especially one! Maybe the board can’t see why the Puppet can’t fix the lineman labor issue because they are all batting there eyes back at her. Maybe that is how people get promoted there.

  7. Logic says:

    Bill your spoiled food to TID. :p

  8. TID Customer says:

    If the linemen walk again, Casey should let them walk, and keep on walking. Maybe they need to have some respect; for their employer and their customers, and themselves, for that matter. They’re acting like a bunch of spoiled, greedy punks. Between their salaries and benefits, including pensions, the District would probably be better off financially going with all contract line workers; and they would definitely be better off from an HR standpoint.

  9. Working man says:

    Ill agree, this is the first time Alex actually reported Non-biased toward TID board.

    Casey has finally stated a fact that has been known for a longtime(Since before September). The fact is Casey has never respected these working men. Casey himself wants the respect but has issues respecting his labor! Respect in the work place starts at the top as an example and trickles down. TID “leadership” has done poorly with leading by example.

    Casey continually has his thumb on this group of workers, making policy that goes against their contract. (If you bully and pick on someone long enough, eventually the person that is getting picked is going to react) So what I don’t understand? Is how this TID management continually pushed and stepped on the toes of these works long enough, so the workers reacted. The bullying continued, the workers reacted. Until things escalated to a high level. Casey was told and warned on several occasions by his managers “if you keep picking on these guys they are going to react” It’s unfortunate that TID management still won’t take any responsibility.

    And these reactions left Some people with some strong feelings towards a TID labor group. Some people feel that the workers should feel lucky to have a job? And on the serface the answer to that sounds simple? We shouldn’t jump to these conclusions so quickly until we understand both sides! One thing everyone can agree on, utility’s are Incredibly complex, and VERY dynamic! And with that being said, employing properly trained, Competent, intelligent individuals, with all the skills necessary, becomes a challenge too! Especially in an industry when these type of well-trained high skill people are hard to come by!

  10. Both sides of the fence says:

    You know the saying;
    “Don’t talk about the farmer with your mouth full”
    That saying could just as easily apply to the cynics who bad mouth the people who keep your lights on.

  11. Hilmar Farmer says:

    I also feel sorry for the linemen. They have to work at a job that pays them $150,000/year. Dairymen don’t even make that much money. WDO’s make $45,000/year.

  12. Walk a mile says:

    There is a lot of people who like to make a big issue of wages or how much people make. A dairyman makes this much, a farmer makes this much, a business owner makes this much, a lineman makes this much.
    What if I told you I want to earn what a doctor earns? Would you tell me to become a doctor? Or what if I told you I want to earn what the GM of TID earns? Would you tell me to become the GM of TID? So when you say, the linemen earn this much. I say to you become a lineman. You should do your research! And investigate are the TID employees over paid, could they even be underpaid per industry standard? What’s their base wage/salary? How much over time do they work? An intelligent well informed person would use facts and not their opinions(opinions tend to scew the facts).

  13. The Real Hilmar Farmer says:

    I’ll be the first to say I don’t like unions, especially in the public sector. However, these guys make 80-100k salary, no different than a fire fighter or a lot of teachers in the area. They get to 150k a year due to overtime, if the public doesn’t like that, then get the board to get a manger in there to limit overtime and hire the additional employees. Yeah we all think a linemens job is easy and they just stand around, but what the public doesn’t see is them out there on any given holiday fixing poles hit by drunks, in any major storm rain or shine fixing lines to restore the power to TID customers. Why did it take a so called strike 6 months after their original contract was up to get any attention? Bottom line is, Casey needs to go. The manager of the line department he put in place couldn’t even pass the journeyman test. Talk about incompetent.

  14. Guest says:

    Michelle Reimers, donated to Alamo & Macedo campaign. I wonder why!!!

  15. M.A.D.D. says:

    The Alamo family is a very respectful family in the “Dairy” industry. With that being said here are the facts that are making this family look “Greedy” and “Desperate” to win an election:
    1- You have a women by the name Dawna Trinkler going around and saying she is your campaign manager, what are you running for president? She is also the daughter of the owner of Trinkler Farms, why are the Trinklers so involved in Alamo’s campaign?
    2- Joe has raised over $25,000 for his campaign and when asked what he would do with the left over money he stated arrogantly, “I’ll spend it!” why not donate it, since there millionaires?
    3- He just don’t have a clue about a “Public Utility Format” he fumbles through his tablet looking for answers, even breaking out with hives on his face because he gets so frustrated.
    4- In 4 years of him on the board our Electrical rates have went up 14% and slated to go up another 5%to 7% in January, the current Incumbents wouldn’t even comment on this cause it could damage there campaign.
    5- TID Water Dept. is in a current state of re-structuring due to poor management skills, and not having skilled enough crews to fix the infrastructure themselves, when not to long ago TID did most of there construction in-house, now it’s contracted out.
    6- Joe is for “Out of State” contractors, being a Dairyman his self that should shame him! what this means is when your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, friend, etc….. enter the job force, the “Local” jobs are not there, the word is “Out Sourced” In this current Economy I think everyone knows at least 1 young adult that can’t find a “Good” job, or a job at all? How would the Alamo Family like it if all of our milk started getting shipped in from Wisconsin, and there was no need for there product? Bet Joe would care then?
    7- There are so many Alamo campaign signs on the side of the road it looks like an act of Desperation. He also has donators that work for TID, and 2 current Board Members, that looks BAD, a Board of Director is the voice of the “Rate Payer” of there division, looks like TID management is scratching Alamo’s back.
    8- If he was my Brother I would take him behind the Milk Barn and slap him around for shaming the Family’s name, Perhaps that’s maybe what happened to his face?;)

  16. Tammy says:

    You should sit and work where I do. Every Tuesday the Board members runs out the Board room and by Mr. Hashimoto’s office and past mine straight back to Ms. Reimers office. That is probably where she donates and helps them get reelected. It all makes me sick.

  17. Marin says:

    I am a lineman’s wife, and am appalled at the comments being made on here. There are two sides to every story, and don’t see how anyone has the audacity to make slanderous, child-like comments. (That goes for both sides of the fence.) There is an intelligent way to voice your concern without the petty name calling. Thank you to those who have done that.
    Everyone seems so quick to point fingers and leave nasty comments based on assumptions. The gentleman (or woman) who posted as “retired ditch tender” obviously has no idea what took place the weekend of the outage, as it was not a “planned outage”. Not one single person has asked any of the linemen why they weren’t able to respond to the call. (Quite possibly there would have been a lineman to respond if they weren’t down half of their work force, but that is another issue.)
    To those who are commenting regarding the linemen “asking for too much money” should choose their words more carefully. Haven’t you noticed the linemen haven’t responded or tried to defend themselves publicly for all they are being attacked for? The main reason for that is so they aren’t charged with breech of negotiation practices. Unless you have been illegally been given “Privileged Information” then you would have no idea whether or not the union is asking for a raise, asking for status quo, or even asking for TID to not take away as much wages/benefits as they may like. If you are certain they have “asked for more money” then you may quite possibly be at risk for litigation yourself, or the person that gave you the information.
    For those who don’t feel they deserve the wage they earn why don’t you ask the widows and children left fatherless to those who lost their life on the job. So quickly are we to forget even one of our own linemen who recently died by electrocution. About 35 out of 100,000 Electrical Linemen loose their life on the job. To put that in perspective the mortality rate of a firefighter is about 2 out of 100,000. We all understand the danger that is associated with respectable professions such as a firefighter or a police officer, and the base wage of an electrical lineman is about the same, or a little less than those fields. Wages have been reported in past news articles, but what people don’t realize is that these wages don’t come from 40 hour work weeks. They often come from 80-100 hour work weeks, working 36+ hours straight. I don’t believe there is one person posting negative comments about wages on here that is willing to work 36 hours continuously, without sleep, for no overtime compensation.
    If I may address the board, who may or may not be reading, I have met and spoken with a couple of you and I have always been addressed with respect and spoken to cordially. I do not believe there is one of you on the board that doesn’t have the same interest as the employees and families of TID. I feel though there may be inaccurate information given to you. I feel we all have the same goal and if you could take the time to actually speak to some employees personally, a lot of headway could be made. I speak not only as a wife to a lineman, but also as a former employee from another department. The mutual consensus is that the existing board is only concerned with themselves and their interests, and have no regard for the employees. I do not believe that though, as I previously stated. I just feel there is not adequate communication which is leading to a lot of unnecessary animosity.
    To those personally attacking Ms Reimers – she is only doing her job, and has the right to do so. Like you, she is free to donate to the campaign for the candidate she feels is best qualified for the job, and shouldn’t be ridiculed for it. To the person who is posting as “Tammy”, you should be ashamed of yourself trying to act as if you are Tammi making those comments.

    I am not hiding behind a fake user name, and any of you are welcome to contact me. What I have written is exactly how I feel, and will not be ashamed of it. I am getting tired of the attacks, and everyone feeling like they are able to defend themselves for fear of any comment being twisted around. I am proud of my husband for working endless hours to support his family. I pray every day for the safety of the linemen and those involved.

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