Shot at with pellet guns. Run off the road. Threatened with death.
This is what some of Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s rank-and-file employees have faced as public outrage over power outages and fires have swept the state.
Most of PG&E’s 24,000 employees have nothing to do with the systemic problems and bad corporate decisions that led to these debacles. Many of them have also suffered due to power outages and wildfires.
Yet, as the most visible and accessible members of the company, they often become targets of unjustified scorn and harassment – “frontline emblems of their employer’s failings,” according to a story in The San Francisco Chronicle.
The problem has gotten so out of hand that even Gov. Gavin Newsom had to weigh in this week. During a press conference in El Dorado County on Thursday, Newsom “urged Californians to save their outrage for the utility’s corporate owners and treat workers on the ground with respect,” according to a story by The Sacramento Bee’s Sophia Bollag.
“They’re your community members. They send their kids to the same school you send your kids to,” said Newsom. “They didn’t create this mess. They’re trying to fix it.”
Before PG&E can restore power to blacked-out areas, utility workers must inspect lines to make sure they’re safe. That’s what one PG&E worker was doing when he was run off the road, said Newsom.
“You can be rightfully outraged, and I will be right there front and center with you, about the corporate mismanagement,” Newsom said. “But the individual workers that are out there on the lines, please respect them.”
Newsom is right. While blackouts and wildfires have caused massive inconvenience, destruction and anguish for many Californians, that’s not an excuse to unleash misdirected anger at workers who bear no blame for the problem. No one would rather see our state’s electricity infrastructure working smoothly and reliably more than PG&E’s frontline workers.
We all understand the frustration created by PG&E’s failures, along with unusually high winds and tinder-dry fire conditions. But attacking innocent workers achieves nothing.
So let’s all resist the temptation to lash out senselessly. Let’s cut PG&E’s field crews a break. They’re working hard to get the lights back on and, in times like these, we need their service more than ever.