New York, NY – For months, Charter/Spectrum — the second-largest cable provider in the country — has touted a so-called “wage-rich package” replete
with “22 to 55-percent” pay increases, “excellent health insurance choices” and 401K savings plans with “generous six-percent dollar-for-dollar match[es].” But, if the cable giant’s offer is so great, why are striking IBEW 3 employees, already out of work for nearly a year, opting to continue pounding the bricks?
That’s the same question John Freeman, a 29-year cable employee posed during a Blue Collar Buzz segment slated to air this Sunday night at 9 p.m. on AM970.
“If the package was that good, and we felt this was something that was really good for everybody, we wouldn’t be out for 10 months,” Freeman says.
Indeed, while Charter/Spectrum praises to the high heavens, “the same excellent health insurance choices we offer to the rest of our 92,000 employees,” Freeman says the corporation’s premium health plan actually carries a $400-a-month premium, $3,000 deductible, and other out-of-pocket costs that put workers on the hook for another 10 percent of medical bills.
“My package that I currently have now…I pay my monthly dues and all I pay is a minimal co-payment,” Freeman said. “It just seems that Charter doesn’t want to compromise. It’s their way or the highway. The union is trying to give concessions. They’re trying to bend over backwards to get us back to work. [Charter/Spectrum] just simply does not want to deal.”
According to fellow IBEW Local 3 member Randy Cedeno, the corporate behemoth that thinks nothing of paying CEO Tom Rutledge $98 million a year, is really intent on breaking the union.
“Anytime we have gone to the table they have refused to talk about anything,” Cedeno tells Blue Collar Buzz. “I think the longest any meetings have lasted is 15…20 minutes, [before] the disrespect is seen. We live in New York City; we’re supposed to be negotiating in good faith. This company just wants to break the union — that’s all they care about.”
When asked about the disparity, Charter/Spectrum spokesperson John Bonomo reiterated that same canned corporate talking point, by now, heard ad nauseam.
“Our offer, which we implemented in July, includes an immediate average wage increase of 22 percent — with some employees eligible for a 55-percent increase — complemented by the same excellent health insurance choices we offer to the rest of our 92,000 employees and a 401(k) savings plan with a generous six-percent dollar-for-dollar match,” Bonomo restated in an email.
If workers think Charter/Spectrum’s health coverage is a load of bunk, they think even less of the corporation’s self-congratulatory 401K savings plan.
“If that thing tanks — like the housing bubble when everything just dropped out on us… I can’t invest my family’s future into something like that,” Freeman adds. “The union has a defined pension plan and medical plan. Which to me, would secure my future.”
The United States is now face-to-face with a retirement crisis it is totally unprepared to handle, as more retirement age workers head into their supposedly golden years without the necessary economic resources to live with dignity.
That wasn’t the case for previous generations when a majority of American workers enjoyed defined pension plans. The Reagan administration, however, was intent on launching a campaign to kill defined pension plans, and corporate America has only intensified the effort.
The National Public Pension Coalition recently noted that from 1975 to 2005, the number of private-sector workers with a defined benefit pension dropped from 88 percent to 33 percent.
“We want to get back to the job that we do — taking care of the people of this city,” Cedeno says. “We have members who have lost their homes. We have members who have lost their cars. We have members whose families have had to split up and live in different locations because no one family member can put them up.”