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Do linemen make too much?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002

    Default Do linemen make too much?

    Featured Sponsor

    Apperently the Seattle Times thinks hard working linemen do.

    City Light workers top $100,000 in overtime pay
    By Sharon Pian Chan

    Seattle Times staff reporter


    Seattle's top overtime, city workers (PDF)

    Overtime was so lucrative at Seattle City Light last year that 27 workers made at least $100,000 of it by working extra hours.

    Eleven of those workers topped $200,000 in total income.

    A shortage of skilled workers, construction projects around the city and damage from the December windstorm prompted the city-owned utility to rely on employee overtime — with some workers averaging 65 to 70 hours a week.

    Three line workers became the highest-paid employees in the city, based on city data, earning even more than City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco's 2006 salary of $224,019.

    In all, City Light paid out $25.4 million in overtime last year, more than double what it paid in 2005. "We are concerned about it," Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said. "It raises some issues for us about productivity and worker safety when you work that many hours. In some cases, it does seem excessive."

    After bringing up the issue at a recent meeting with Ceis, Carrasco started an overtime audit.

    Dennis Sovern is a crew chief who averaged 80 to 90 hours a week last year and made $88,101 in regular pay, plus $136,324 in overtime. He said he works safely.

    "I'm really fortunate because I'm gifted in I don't get wore out," he said. "I'm able to take a five- or 10-minute nap and I'm fine. But if I'm too tired to work, I don't work. I just don't go." Sovern, who has worked for the utility for 27 years, was the city's third highest-paid employee in 2006, according to the data.

    Crew chief Michael Brooks, who also is on the top-10 list of highest-paid workers, declined to comment. The Seattle Times could not reach the other eight workers.

    Chris Heimgartner, City Light's customer-service and energy-service delivery officer, said not all the overtime pay comes from working overtime. The union contract says that if a break between a regular shift and an overtime shift is less than eight hours, the regular shift is also paid at double time.

    Based on some quick math, Heimgartner estimated the top earners, who earn base pay of about $33 an hour, probably worked an average of 65 to 70 hours a week in 2006. Line workers, who repair and install power lines, make some of the highest hourly wages in the city. Overtime does not factor into pension payments.

    Heimgartner said the extra hours don't appear to affect safety, noting that the injury rate has stayed level. Still, the city's top officials are worried about the long hours.

    The utility had budgeted $10 million for overtime in 2006, and ended up paying more than double. The overtime will not affect electricity rates given the utility's large budget, Carrasco said, but "it's a significant amount of money that we're watching very closely."

    City Light had the highest overtime payments last year compared with other city departments — averaging $13,742 per employee, according to a Seattle Times analysis. The Fire Department was second with an average of $8,027, followed by the Police Department with $7,850.

    Utility officials say they had to ask employees to volunteer for overtime because of a worker shortage. The utility has 50 vacancies among its 180 line-worker positions, and is recruiting to fill those jobs. Enrollment in the apprentice program is close to capacity, but it takes four years to fully train apprentices for line-worker jobs.

    Carrasco said he is evaluating whether to bring in contractors to keep up with the workload.

    While acknowledging the 2006 overtime was "unusually high," Heimgartner said even if the utility filled those 50 positions, it would still need people to work overtime. He doesn't know whether it's cheaper to pay overtime to existing employees or to hire new employees to do the work.

    Construction throughout the city, such as for the Sound Transit light-rail line, required crews to work during off hours so they would not cut power during business hours. In some cases, developers pay for the cost of repairs and connections. The portion developers paid last year "is not a really big piece" of total overtime costs, Heimgartner said.

    The December windstorm also played a part in the high overtime, though it accounted for only about an eighth of the total overtime. Heimgartner estimates a line worker could have earned an extra $10,000 in the days after the windstorm that cut power to 175,000 City Light customers.

    Sovern, the crew chief, said customers want quick service.

    "The reason that we are so far up [on the payroll] is that when people's lights are out, we got out and responded to them," he said.

    "We're always available. We always go."

    Staff reporters Justin Mayo, Brian Alexander and Mike Carter and staff researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report. Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or

    Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

    E-mail article

  2. #2
    lineman-up Guest

    Default not overpaid but maybe overworked?

    maybe they should be thanking these guys for working these hours, instead of looking at it from the negative point. that is a ridiculous amount of money to make at 33$ an hour. the city should give them each a break and a pat on the back as far as i'm concerned.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    Cool Thank a Lineman

    My Father-in-law lives in one of the riches areas in Seattle; His power was out for 5 days. He didn’t bitch about it, BUT, money talks, money is power, try telling those rich people that the Utility doesn’t want to pay overtime to get there lights on. I wonder what the reporter would have to say about his paper not going to press because the linecrew was home sleeping because the City didn’t want to pay overtime? He’d be bitching about the Linecrews home sleeping!!!!!

    Thank a Lineman for all the hours he or she puts in away from home and familty to restore there power.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006


    "The only thing that's worth a shit on the "News" is the Weather. And, even they can't get that right!"

    Never thought I'd say this, but Swamprat, I agree 100% with you on that one.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Western Australia


    Quote Originally Posted by Swamprat View Post
    What's "Too much money"?

    WHAT... is all this shit bout, "This trade makes Too much money?"

    You call me out at night on Overtime, to put peoples lights back on.....
    That's my job. I get paid. WTF? What's the problem?

    Bottom line Harry?

    The Seattle times, don't have enough "Real" Storys to play with, so they have to go to "sensationalist" journalism. How much money a "utility" worker makes.

    Is it just me, or does anybody else see how the TV media.....
    "Makes our news", and channels us who are watching it. "Making irrelivant shit..."News".

    150K a year for "Some" Linemen?
    Linemen that bust their ass on "OVERTIME".

    What's the problem?

    Ms. Chan is just another journalist, lookin for a "story", and doesn't have a clue about what's really behind the "Story".

    Course, you won't hear THAT Story.

    The only thing that's worth a shit on the "News" is the Weather. And, even they can't get that right!!

    Just keep telling it like it is Swamp its the same the world over TOO MUCH MONEY? What a crock of sh!t if people are so worried and upset by what Linesman earn they should quit bitching and join the trade and put their a$$ where their mouth is. When I was working for the local utility here there was all kinds scandalous reports and accusations that we won a $130 odd dollar a week pay rise. People would mouth off in the street until you explained that we were getting the same amount working full time as you would being on unemployment benifits when married with two kids! Their pay is still a debacle thats why I went contracting....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    Instead of picking on linemen, who may work an excess of 3000 hours per year, this young lady should look into what the CEOs are making. Many CEOs are paid as much for one day as the average linemen earns an entire year. NOW THERE IS AN INJUSTICE

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2003


    Next time Sharon Pian Chan has no lights, I hope the brother who responds to her call remembers who she is.....she is just jealous!
    "It is not the critic who counts:The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena" Teddy Roosevelt

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    New Mexico


    I think that some of the Seattle City Linemen should invite the reporter to tag along during some storm outage restoration and spend 16-20 hrs in the field with them and then she can determine how much that their skilled labor is worth ! What a crock of Bullshit trying to tell everyone they are overpaid when they busted their asses to earn that money .

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    That's why a trampbag has handles.....


    Ain’t no such thing as:

    Cars too fast

    Whiskey too old

    Women too pretty


    Too much money!!!!!


    I’d like to see the bitch reporter survive 10 days on a line crew in a Pacific North West wind storm like last winter, waiting for the next 160 foot Douglas Fir to fall, hopefully not on your truck!!!

    Hell, I’d like to see her try to survive getting out of bed at 1AM to change a transformer in a blizzard up at Snoqualmie.

    Wonder if she’d figure $75 per hour was too much money then??
    Have Trampbag, Will Travel

    Everyone who comes here brings a little joy.

    Some when they come in. Others when they leave.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    up a creek in the N.W.; Washington state

    Talking trampbag

    Featured Sponsor

    Hey tramp...better yet, north eastern whatcom county and the fraser freezer...the nor...easter...from the freezer. Had crews show up and leave...drug-up on the spot! Had vehicles blow off the road while parked...waiting for a clearance. Some buddies from alaska worked here on one storm...finished the storm and commented that next time we can solve our own problems. woody

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