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City Council to Probe Spectrum Standoff With Workers

May 19, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco

Pressure is mounting on Spectrum.

New York, NY - A Queens councilman on Thursday promised striking Spectrum/Charter Communications workers rallying outside the multi-billion dollar telecom's 23rd Street offices that hearings will soon be held looking into the company’s activities during the almost two-month-old standoff with IBEW Local 3 members.  

“Before this month is out, I can tell you that there will be a hearing conducted by the New York City Council into what is exactly going on here today,” City Council Member Barry Grodenchik [D-23rd District] told the trades men and women packing 23rd Street between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue South. 

About 1,800 members of IBEW Local 3 who work for Spectrum/Charter Communications have been working without a contract since 2013. Strikers hit the street on March 28, in a fight centered around pension and hospitalization contributions, weekend overtime pay, and increased outsourcing. 

HTC members display solidarity.

“This fight is not only us — this fight is the entire city, because if they take something from us...you’re next,” IBEW Local 3, Business Representative Derek Jordan said atop a flatbed truck located directly beneath the windows of Spectrum/Charter Communications. “All we want is a fair contract.”

The current standoff mirrors last year’s Verizon strike which saw 40,000 workers up and down the east coast walk off the job for six-and-a-half weeks starting on April 13. 

“We kicked corporate greed’s ass because the unions stuck together,” Billy Gallagher, CWA, District 1, director told strikers and their supporters. “We had the same fight as you sisters and brothers have today — pensions and healthcare.”

Its was a similar story in the summer of 2012, as well, when Con Edison locked out about 8,000 utility workers for almost a month. 

“I’ve seen corporate greed right in the face,” said James Slevin, president, Local 1-2, Utility Workers Union of America. “[But] we stood strong, we fought back, and we beat corporate greed by being united together. This is the same game plan they played in 2012 — the same issues.”

IBEW Local 3, Assistant Business Manager Lance Van Arsdale blasted Spectrum/Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge garnering a $99 million compensation package while workers fight to  maintain middle class wages and benefits. 

“They don’t want you to be able to afford to raise a family,” Van Arsdale said. “This company’s CEO made $99 million last year. Their stock price went up 23 percent. “[Spectrum/]Charter Communications wants to suck this city dry, and we’re not going to let them.”

Van Arsdale also assailed Spectrum/Charter Communications for failing to provide New Yorkers with cutting edge Internet and Cable TV service as advertised. Earlier this year, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a lawsuit against the telecom giant alleging Spectrum/Charter Communications deliberately plotted to defraud and mislead New Yorkers. 

“They make promises and they don’t deliver,” City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley [D-30th District] said. “Spectrum[/Charter Communications] promised New Yorkers better service and they didn’t deliver — and that is why they are getting sued by our state attorney general. [And] on job sites throughout this city, they’re breaking OSHA rules. And for four years, your members haven’t had a good contract.”

IBEW Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erikson accused Spectrum/Charter Communications of having a clear union busting agenda. Time-Warner sold its Internet and Cable TV operations to Charter Communications in 2015 for $55 billion. 

The scene on 23rd Street.

“This is not an easy fight,” Erikson said. “I respect you for taking on this fight. It is an admirable fight. You are fighting to protect your pensions and your medical coverage. That’s worth fighting for.”

Last month, Public Advocate Letitia James wrote a letter to Rutledge urging him start bargaining in good faith, and to finally resolve the dispute with workers. Thirty-three members of the New York City Council also signed onto that letter. 

“You are fighting for your families, you are fighting for your communities, but you are [also] fighting for all New Yorkers,” City Council Member Rory Lacman [D-24th District] told rally-goers. “Every New Yorker is looking to Local 3 right now. Looking to you to set a standard for fair wages, fair benefits [and] job security.”

IBEW Local 3 last rallied outside Spectrum/Charter Communications headquarters on April 5. Permits for Thursday’s rally were tough to secure, according to Erikson, due to noise concerns. Striking IBEW Local 3 members, along with supporters from the New York City Hotel Trades Council and others were loud, threatening even to drown out union speakers with air horns and whistles throughout the hour-plus demonstration. 

Said Erikson, “There are things happening that are going to, hopefully, bring this [strike] to an end.”

 

 

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