Union and Los Angeles

At Odds Over Blackout

LOS ANGELES -- Workers who accidentally triggered a massive lunchtime blackout were upgrading the city power system during peak daytime hours because the city was "cutting corners" and reluctant to pay higher wages at night, union official Brian D'Arcy said Tuesday.

City officials denied the allegation, and one City Council member questioned whether the outage was an intentional move by the union to pressure the city in an ongoing contract dispute.

Almost 2 million people, from downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley, lost power Monday for as long as 21/2 hours. Traffic lights were out, elevators stopped, and the police were on alert but said terrorism was not suspected.

The shutdown came after a Department of Water and Power crew incorrectly cut several control lines at a receiving station in the Toluca Lake area of the San Fernando Valley.

Ron Deaton, the utility's general manager, said it was an honest mistake by technicians. "That's all there is; there ain't no more," Deaton told officials at a City Council meeting.

The workers were installing automated monitoring controls to provide department officials with immediate information about the status of its system.

D'Arcy, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents 8,200 utility workers, said technicians should have done the work at night, when power usage is lower and there is less potential for wide-scale shutdowns. Night work means higher wages that the city did not want to pay, he said.

The City Council has yet to approve a proposal that would increase utility workers' pay between 16.25 percent and 30 percent over five years. D'Arcy said the union will hold a strike vote in the coming weeks.

Hunter Testifies About

Wis. Shooting Rampage

HAYWARD, Wis. -- A deer hunter wounded in a shooting rampage that killed six others testified that he fired a shot at the man accused in the killings only after he already was hit in the arm and the man was trying to shoot him again.

Lauren Hesebeck said he was helping some of his fallen companions when Chai Soua Vang walked toward him.

Vang, 36, a Hmong immigrant who lives in St. Paul, Minn., is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. He faces mandatory life in prison if convicted. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty. The shootings happened after the hunters confronted Vang, whom they accused of trespassing on private land.

Hesebeck testified that Terry Willers, the other hunter who was wounded, never pointed his gun at Vang or fired a shot. But according to statements the defense entered into court, Hesebeck told his wife hours after the shooting and later told investigators that he believed Willers had fired a shot.

Willers testified Monday that he never fired.

-- From News Services