On Sunday, for the sixth day in a row, more than 15,000 homes and businesses in the District remained without power, according to Pepco spokesman Marcus Beal.
But as residents continued to deal with record temperatures that consistently exceeded 100 degrees, a local union contends that rather than blaming the delay restoring power to incompetence on Pepco's part, the utility company's "chronic" lack of manpower is at fault.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1900 also claim that Pepco's shift from hiring union utility workers to non-union temporary contractors has added to the problem.
"We have half the linemen we had 15 years ago," Jim Griffin from IBEW Local 1900, said in a statement. Griffin, whose union represents 1,150 Pepco workers, added that, "We have been complaining for a very long time. They have relied for a long time on contractors. They are transients, they don't know our system, and we typically have to go behind them to fix their mistakes. It's very frustrating. We take ownership in our work, we make careers out of this."
Griffin said IBEW warned Pepco years ago about the consequences of under-staffing.
"Everything is keyed on dollars and cents profit," IBEW Utility Director Jim Hunter reportedly warned back in 2005. "Storm outages are longer, and utilities are asking for more and more help from other utilities. The problem is that other companies are in the same boat. And they are still not hiring."
Griffin went on to say that starting 15 years ago, Pepco stopped hiring workers to replace retiring electrical workers and offered incentive-laden buyout deals to get electricians to retire.
He said that in order to address understaffing problems, Pepco -- which currently employs 1,150 union workers and approximately 400 non-union contractors -- has at times, hired non-union temporary contractors, instead of hiring new workers.
Meanwhile, according to a statement of Pepco's website, an estimated 300,000 man-hours were expended to restore customers, including call center support. Pepco secured about 1,000 hotel rooms to house field crews over an eight-day period, arranged more than 53,000 meals and issued about 10,000 cases of water and 9,000 cases of energy drinks to keep crews sufficiently hydrated during the high heat the region experienced last week.