Friday, August 28, 2020
Good evening, Senators and Members of Assembly. My name is Patrick Guidice and I represent Local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers as its Business Manager. I am accompanied by our Governmental Affairs Representative, Kasey Scheid. My Local Union represents 4,200 proud members with almost 2,000 members working each day to operate and maintain the electric transmission and distribution system. In starting my testimony today, I want to thank Senator Parker and Members of Assembly Paulin and Cusick for holding this hearing. The electric consumers we serve are our highest priority and hearings such as these will allow us to provide clarity and detail to our response and concerns with the recent storm restoration activity.
On Tuesday, August 4th, Tropical Storm Isaias tore through our community, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The high-velocity sustained winds tore down the electric transmission and distribution network, and hundreds of thousands of our Long Island neighbors were left without electric service. I have been a utility worker since 1981 and a veteran of every major storm since Hurricane Gloria. I can attest to you, that the level of utter destruction from this event was devastating. I have been told repeatedly by my brothers and sisters working to restore service that this storm damage rivaled the damage left by Hurricane Sandy.
Each time a cataclysmic event such as this occurs, our utility employer will reach out to other utilities and electric line contractors to secure the labor of other line workers through what is referred to as "Mutual Aid" agreements. However, as recent weather events have shown, the United States has been experiencing these storms more and more frequently. For example, after Tropical Storm Isaias devastated our region, an "inland hurricane" tore through the Midwest, causing millions of Americans to lose power. Because of these frequent storms, other utilities cannot always send their workers to assist, because they do not want to be without them if they get hit by a storm soon after. We must face an important fact, as weather events become increasingly more frequent and powerful, there is an increased need for highly trained, qualified line workers to respond to these emergencies.
Hi-Voltage line work is a dangerous business. Electric power is one of the most powerful energy sources available, and will undoubtably cause horrific fatalities and injuries if workers are not properly trained. In my almost 40 years in this industry, I have comforted too many families of injured members. I have also attended too many funerals of my brothers and sisters who suffered through horrible deaths.
The safe and efficient restoration of electric service is our number one priority. That is what we train for, and we know our duty. The service we provide brings comfort and safety into the homes of our neighbors, and powers the businesses that drive the engine of our region's economy. We are acutely aware of the demands placed upon us. But during these events, we ask our elected leaders for help. Help through comforting their constituency to lead them through a difficult time. Putting more pressure on us will not get power restored any faster, and will ultimately result in one of my brothers and sisters getting killed. Please keep this in mind any time an event occurs, because not only could it create safety issues, but it severely erodes morale.
Today, I respectfully ask this esteemed panel to examine the number of line workers in our area of responsibility. Trained and qualified line workers take years to develop. Through apprenticeship, and then through several more years of working, they develop the institutional knowledge of a complicated and sophisticated electric grid. That saves time, money and effort during storm restoration and it cannot be learned by line workers who are trained and qualified to work on other systems. Additionally, we are extremely concerned with the educational and training credentials of workers who have not participated in IBEW certified apprenticeship programs, which are the best in the world. This concern is what keeps me up at night, and it should concern you, too.
PSEG LI has partnered with us to increase the staffing of line workers. We are heading in the right direction, but this will take time. We would like to examine the use of our brothers and sisters that are employed at National Grid US. They are our fellow union members and they possess the same strong commitment to service, and have a heartfelt duty to restore power. Most of these workers have served in the past to perform emergency storm restoration, and are available to be put into action. In addition, we urge everyone to consider developing more qualified line workers. We need to be a part of the process in increasing staffing levels to ensure that safe, reliable service is provided.
Throughout our history, we have always answered the call during this kind of emergency. It's part of our DNA. As we work to improve future restoration response, please keep in mind the role of the members and IBEW Local 1049 and the need to increase the level of qualified line workers. Thank you.