Mayor Dodges Question About City Work Rules For Changing Light Bulbs

CHICAGO (CBS) — City workers are expected to be efficient about doing their jobs, but a recent CBS 2 investigation found it was taking three city workers to change a light bulb – with one of those workers sitting down in a chair the whole time.

On Wednesday, 2 Investigator Pam Zekman asked Mayor Rahm Emanuel the question everyone wanted to know: how many city workers does he think it should take to change a light bulb?

“There is such a rich joke there its appropriate I stay away from it,” Emanuel said, after he stopped laughing.

Banquet hall operator John Kapusciarz wasn’t laughing when he saw a crew of three city workers changing light bulbs in an alley behind his business. He took pictures and sent CBS 2 an email asking “How many city of Chicago employees does it take to change one light bulb?”

It turns out, it takes three city workers to change light bulbs in street and alley lights, due to union work rules.

Those work rules require a $70,000 a year truck driver to drive the city truck to the work site and two other $85,000 a year workers – one to go up in a cherry picker to change the bulb and another required on the ground for safety.

When Kapusciarz watched the crew at work, he saw one of the three workers pull out a chair and sit around the entire time.

“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?”

He said he’s seen the same task done by a one-man crew from a private company working for Walgreens.

“One guy, one truck. One guy can get the job done,” Kapusciarz said.

But Emanuel hedged when pressed on whether the city should also use only one worker to change light bulbs on street and alley lights.

“I’m not going to talk about how many of this and how many that,” Emanuel said. “But work rules do not trump workers when there are common practices throughout the workplace of America.”

We weren’t able to catch up with the mayor for further comment, but later his press secretary did say the mayor plans “to take a top to bottom look at the way the city does its business so it can be done more efficiently for taxpayers.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, Kapusciarz got a call from the city inspector general’s office, asking about the photos. He said he’s sending the photos to the inspector general and providing details on what he saw.

More from Pam Zekman
  • Regio

    And we are all suppose to sit here and believe that no other former Mayor knew about this? no wonder the city is broke and nothing gets done.. everyone is sitting on thier behinds…


    Well we see who’s side CBS is on. Why don’t you report real news like why Chicago is in the hole, heres a hint its not the unions but the people you guys are too scared to report on. Carry on with your “shocking” stories, and to think you call yourself reporters…..

    • CBSNews

      You have your opportunity, who are these mysterious people you speak of?

      CBS would be interested in names, please……Then we can do some REAL investigating.

  • Jack Hamilton

    What an awesome article!

    • Me

      I know. Reminds of funny but relevant joke:

      There were two guys working for the city. One would dig a hole — he would dig, dig, dig.
      The other would come behind him and fill the hole — fill, fill, fill. These two men worked furiously; one digging a hole, the other filling it up again.
      A man was watching from the sidewalk and couldn’t believe how hard these men were working, but couldn’t understand what they were doing. Finally he had to ask them.
      He said to the hole digger, “I appreciate how hard you work, but what are you doing? You dig a hole and your partner comes behind you and fills it up again!”
      The hole digger replied, “Oh yeah, must look funny, but the guy who plants the trees is sick today.”

  • jaycee

    Lest they didn`t have a TOWN CAR to sit in Mr Kapusciarz should be happy for that Rahm the dodger won`t answer many questions for security reason every thing with him is security analysis

  • Aleah

    To John the business owner- it is a shame you are so busy taking picture’s of workers because your banquet hall sucks! Maybe if you were inside more doing your business you wouldnt be noticing all the light bulbs being changed by the city or at walgreens- seriously why are you outside so much! Dont be made because these guys work hard and I have seen it-get back to work John and get over -your tax dollars do not pay their salaries!

    • John


      I must apologize, I really need to tend more to my banquet hall and stop fussing over such trivial matters.

      Next time these gentleman are in the area, I insist they come on in and have a cold one on me.

      There is simply no excuse for them to be soaking up the sun in a lawn chair when they can enjoy the the modern luxuries of an air conditioned establishment.

  • joanie134

    Why did the conscientious and thrifty Mr. Kupasciarz donate $3000.00 to the following: 23rd Ward Democratic Organization, Alderman Michael Zalewski, and James Laski. Did he contribute that sum of money to assure good government practices?

    • Joanie Loves Mike

      Why? Because he can…..Why did you vote a STRAIGHT Democratic ticket?

      Did you vote because you thought ALL the candidates were good or did you see some sort of BENEFIT, possibly coming your way?

      • JLM

        Split ticket? Very unusual for a fellow 134 member, especially one that has been around as long as you have.

        It’s NICE to see that you’re no lemming, nor wearing blinders when it come time to vote.

        Good luck with your injury, I hope you’re return to work goes well!

      • joanie134

        I’m a split ticket voter. I just found it ironic that someone railing about good government was heavily greasing the palms of his local pols, including one who did a stint in the pokey.

  • mike

    The man is a 62 year old Cancer surviver they do sit down at times Zekman

    • joanie134

      Medical restrictions require accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Thanks for the clarification Mike. This puts things in an entirely different perspective. I’ll pray for Brother’s long term remission. I’m surprised that no one looked into this prior to running the story.

  • Taxpayer 2

    Two guys should be allowed to do this job. The truck driver is the ground guy too. Simply when you use your brain.Saving the taxpayer money.

    Job well done Mr. Kupasciarz. Whatever you do with your money is your business. Thank you for your photo courtesy sir.

  • billyd

    Lazy worthless moochers, well paid with our tax dollars. Gotta get out of this cesspool.

  • Paul

    Ok Pam Great Job , But somehow its funny I havent seen 1 segment youve done on the BIG WIGS , like all these great number of Supervisors and Superintendents there are working for the city, or all these Duputy Directors and there Assistants , and Assistants to the Assistants making big big money.
    I hope your not afraid of them because I would lose ALL respect for you. But i guess in the near future , we all will see if you start cliping some of there Wigs also and be fair.
    If we would start cutting some of there excess fat we would have so much money we could pay the National Debt not just the Citys

  • Jennifer

    This is the most disappointing and trivial “investigating” I have ever read. No actual research was done on the situation or the actual problems with how Chicago spends its money. No experts or even the people in the picture were questioned. All CBS has is these pictures and the opinion of one man who apparently doesn’t believe in letting people take breaks.

    This is shameful, shallow reporting. CBS please take the time to actually provide us with real information, facts or figures perhaps? Instead of a corny headline and a provocative picture.


    Q: How many inbred Chicago morons does it take to change a light bulb? A: Now you know.

  • roninil

    This picture clearly shows a Com Ed transformer at eye level with the guy in the bucket. These are usually fed with either 4160 or 12,800 volts. You make a mistake up there and your instantly ashes. Does Walgreen’s have these? Needless to say, done for safety reasons. Also, did Pam they check OHSA work regulations?

    Must be slow at channel 2 news room.

    • joanie134

      You’re spot on about the OSHA regulations and safety protocols. Two qualified electricians on 480 v. People suggesting that the truck driver double on ground have no inkling into other jobs that these electrical street crews perform: traffic signals, equipment, cables, transformers etc.

      The general public should visit ONET and educate themselves regarding the qualifications to become both an electrician and commercial truck driver. The caterer thinks he knows more about our profession than he actually does.

  • doubled aleah***

    Hey John- you should seriously reconsider your position – you are so good at sitting around taking pics and worring about this – seriously please stick with your business – you look like a real business man-” one guy, one truck”- ya that will solve the problem- get real- and btw I dont think those workers would accept a warm beer from your establishment because it smells like rotten eggs in there! Get a real job- spend more time on your business and not staring out the window- that guy gets breaks too- not all of us can sit all day at our jobs and write emails to cbs complaining of others-nice one jerk!

  • halfthestory

    First of all he is a cancer survivor 2nd he had back surgery a year ago 3rd look in th background u see a ladder on th next pole, that he set up with th driver and then climbed up to fix it and changed out th fixture, never touching th bulb (in his parking lot). 4th and by the way that is 12,000 volts on th top of that transformer and 240 under it, they never changed a bulb, th man in th bucket repaired a connection on a com ed line and the man on th ladder changed th fixture….. “IN HIS LOT” get a life john and show th hole time take your big as up there or do what walgreens did and pay a guy to do it

  • bobby

    There seem to be lots of union apologists commenting here after all the bad publicity of the last few days. The larger issue here is that most average Chicagoans think making $70-80,000 a year to make basic repairs is excessive. Chicago is broke and it’s time for reason to rule the day, rather than cronyism and patronage. It’s time to trim the fat.

    • Nick

      Making 70, 80 or even $90,000 per year, should not be the issue here.

      Everyone deserves a fair wage and most of these electricians spent 4-5 years of schooling and probably more when taken into account, that many advance their careers with night training as well.

      The issue, should be that it takes, at MOST two people to do this job and the city could easily rectify this scenario.

      A CDL license is NOT brain surgery and should be acquired by one or both electricians. Hell, the city makes the rules? They could even have their OWN certification process, NO?

      Now, you’ve just eliminated the need for an exclusive driver and maybe he can be utilized somewhere else within the city.

      Working on 277/480 is not childs play but, has been done for YEARS without the need fora second electrician. For Christs sake, that’s what they are trained for!

      With that being said and since there ARE OSHA rules. It IS necessary to have at least two workers, while working on 277/480v LIVE equipment.

      Now, here’s where the rub comes in. If the city management would implement a plan to have a SAFE way to disconnect the 277/480 and this might come at an added expense of installing disconnect switches or fuses that are safe to work on without the need to stick you’re fuse pullers or hands into the hand holes at the bottom of these poles.

      The work then becomes SAFE and 277/480v is no longer an issue because you were able to disconnect the power safely.

      This would now make it, easily a ONE person job. Most of the time, there are ALWAYS exceptions.

      Just a thought.

      • Johnny come lately


        Please enlighten us on the OSHA requirement for “2” lineman to do this particular job, under 600v

        Please, I’d love to see it in writing.


      • joanie134

        There are labor agreements with the Teamster’s Union. Driving heavy vehicles is their traditional work and they have labor agreements in place. Commercial truck drivers have voted to have the Teamster’s Union represent them. Have you ever heard of the National Labor Relations Act and how Unions are certified? Or are you non-union and lacking knowledge of United State’s Federal Labor Law, labor agreements and OSHA safety requirements?

        Troubleshooting circuitry is more streamlined with two individuals and the proper tools and communication equipment, especially when distances are a factor. The jobs are completed more quickly with two people.

  • halfthestory

    The guys in the privates make th same money an hour and a lot more a year with OT

  • Tom

    How quick this guy was to assume what he was looking at, and how shameful it was of Pam to totally blow some pictures out of context. What about when these guys are working in the ghetto’s of the west/south side, running the risk of getting shot and there is only one guy working? Seriously? How are you supposed to have a one man crew when you are dodging idiotic Chicago drivers on Lake Shore Drive? What about working on the Sky Way? The others have already mentioned high voltage risks.

    Oh, by the way, just in case you forgot Kapusciarz, city workers are required to live in Chicago and pay the same taxes everyone else does…so much for your tax dollars being wasted.

    Next thing we’ll hear is Kapusciarz complaining to CBS about having two police officers in the car when you believe there should only be one…since you saw the Walgreens “rent a cop” doing the same job. What’s sad is that CBS, being the awful news station that it is, will report on it during the “A” block of every news segment…since they have nothing else better to do.

  • Greg

    Pam did not ask why a City lamp, using City electricity is illuminating a private parking lot?

    The City lamps on the poles are the only illumination that John Kapusciarz has to illuminate his private parking lot.

    Those lamps are probably 400w, which is costing the City about $4,380 for each lamp just in electricity costs to illuminate John Kapusciarz’ private parking lot per year.

    I saw at least two City owned lamps over his parking lot, that amount is now over $8,760 per year.

    If those lamps were there for 10 years he owes the city at least $87,600.

    The city lamps over this private parking lot need to be removed.

  • Bob

    Well, if you government workers wonder why you are held in such low regard, check out the cavalier comments by the unions flunkies here. And if you can’t see why the everyday citizen would be outraged by this, you are part of the problem.

  • leo

    u thought it was bad in chicago it’s worst in LEYDEN TOWNSHIP 6 people to pick up tree branches 1 to drive the chipper truck 5 others to follow in pick-up trucks things r really out of control here our township superviser who is also the mayor of rosemont hides in his office all day in rosemont he hired someone to do his job in leyden township

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