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How Many City Workers Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

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CBS 2 viewer John Kapusciarz took this photo of a crew of three city workers that was sent out to change a light bulb in an alley behind his business. One worker took out a chair and sat down the whole time. (Photo courtesy John Kapusciarz)

CBS 2 viewer John Kapusciarz took this photo of a crew of three city workers that was sent out to change a light bulb in an alley behind his business. One worker took out a chair and sat down the whole time. (Photo courtesy John Kapusciarz)

Pam Zekman Pam Zekman
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – How many city workers does it take to change a light bulb? Sounds like a joke right? But it’s not funny when it’s our tax dollars being wasted.

John Kapusciarz certainly wasn’t laughing at what he saw outside his window and contacted CBS2 investigator Pam Zekman.

“And the answer was?” Zekman asked.

“Three,” Kapusciarz said. “One to drive the truck, one actually to change the bulb and one to just sit down and do nothing.”

Kapusciarz called the city to report broken street lights in the alley behind the banquet hall he operates. When a city truck arrived to do the work he was stunned at what he saw.

The most annoying thing, Kapusciarz said, was that after they arrived one of the workers “pulls out a chair out of the passenger’s side and he sits down and I’m thinking, ‘What in the world, I’m paying for this,’ and I’m incensed.”

Kapusciarz took pictures with his camera and emailed them to CBS 2.

“It makes me very, very mad, because it’s my money that I’m paying in property taxes,” Kapusciarz said. “Where does this nonsense end?”

For years union rules have hand-cuffed city agencies regarding the number and function of employees assigned to a job site. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been talking about trying to get union concessions to help make things more efficient. It appears that Kapusciarz’s pictures could be exhibit A in that argument.

In this case, the driver, who makes $70,408 a year, only drives to the location. When someone is in the bucket, a second person is required on the ground for safety. They both make $84,968 a year.

Private contractors told CBS 2 it is possible to change light bulbs with a one person crews, something Kapusciarz has seen for himself.

“I saw them doing it over at Walgreens next door,” he said. “One guy, one truck. … It was unbelievable and they were up and down before you knew it.”

Laurence Msall, President of The Civic Federation, checked out Kapusciarz’ photographs and said, “this is an example of inherent inefficiency.”

“You have someone bringing a chair to their work site in anticipation that they’re going to have a lot of dead time,” Msall added.

A Civic Federation report recommends more than $600-million in cuts in order to balance next year’s city budget.

“Mayor Emanuel and organized labor need to come to the table together to recognize the city’s in financial crisis,” Msall said. “We cannot continue to artificially prop up employment just because we’ re inefficient at how we deliver our services.”

Kapusciarz said he believes, “The entire city has been mismanaged for I don’t know how long, because they allow shenanigans like this to go on, and it’s just frustrating, very, very frustrating.”

A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Transportation said that sitting down and taking a break while on the job is against department guidelines and a further investigation of the matter might result in disciplinary action. He also said the agency is checking the crew’s schedule that day “to make sure the proper levels of productivity were achieved.”

The city spokesman said crews from the division of electrical operations “handle tens of thousands of service calls each year, and the vast majority of crews work very efficiently.”

Since Jan. 1, he said, they have completed over 35,000 311 requests.

A spokesman for the Chicago Federation of Labor said there are no current negotiations with the city to alter union work rules. The current labor contracts do not expire until 2017.

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