TVA needs to get its act together

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2020

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President Donald Trump took the right action Monday when he fired TVA chairman Skip Thompson and board member Richard Howorth for their actions for hiring foreign workers.
The authority was accused of replacing may of its in-house technology workers with contractors who rely heavily on foreign workers under the H1-B visa program for highly skilled workers. TVA’s action could have caused more than 200 highly skilled American tech workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to foreign workers hired on temporary work visas.
The president also signed an executive order to require all federal agencies to complete an internal audit to prove they are not replacing qualified American workers with people from other countries. The White House said the order will help prevent federal agencies from unfairly replacing American workers with lower cost foreign labor.
TVA reportedly pays its CEO Jeff Lyash $8 million a year, a figure that Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander defended, saying the TVA salary is in the bottom fourth of what Lyash’s counterparts earn at other big utilities.
“TVA may have shown poor judgment hiring foreign companies during a pandemic, but, on most counts, it does a very good job of producing large amounts of low-cost, reliable electricity. Residential electric rates are among the 25 per cent lowest in the country, and industrial rates are among the lowest 10 per cent,” Alexander said in a statement. “TVA’s debt is the lowest in 30 years, its pension fund is stronger and TVA leads the country in new nuclear power plants.”
Lyash was hired as president and CEO in November, and has the highest compensation package of any federal employee.
Former TVA Chairman S. David Freeman, appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, criticized the current corporate-style board and CEO structure of the the utility. He said TVA used to attract top talent without current levels of compensation for TVA’s top officers because workers wanted to be a part of TVA’s national mission.
“TVA is not the agency that Franklin Roosevelt founded (in 1933) and today I think TVA is just another utility,” Freeman said. “Unfortunately, TVA is no longer the New Deal, people-oriented yardstick example by which to judge a private company.”
It is worth noting that many of TVA’s board members have been hand-picked by Sen. Alexander and are political plum positions.
TVA is the nation’s largest public utility, serving 10 million ratepayers in seven southeastern states, and employs thousands in our state. Few organizations have transformed the lives of so many people, across so many generations. We don’t have any doubt that the present CEO believes deeply in his mission, a mission derived from decades of service to improving the lives of the people of the Tennessee Valley.
But, $8 million a year in salary — no one is worth that much money.
We wonder if Lyash has visited any of the TVA dams in Northeast Tennessee? Has he ever visited any of the TVA employees in the field, talked to them? If not, he needs to do so. He needs to earn that salary. He needs to meet some of the ratepayers, who are paying his salary.

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