New York, NY – Utility giant Con Edison’s hiring practices are being called “shameful” and “unacceptable” this week, as workers tasked with keeping the company’s offices clean and orderly await Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature on a prevailing wage bill that could help them keep their heads above water.
The New York State Legislature, earlier this year, passed the Utilities Prevailing Wage bill aimed at compelling companies with monopoly status including Con Edison, to pay building service workers prevailing wages and benefits.
Con Edison is currently not doing that, however. Choosing, instead, to engage with subcontractors who are notorious for under-paying janitors and security officers and offering them few, if any, benefits.
Janitor Ramone Hernandez told a group of fellow workers and 32BJ SEIU allies rallying at Pershing Square on Thursday, November 22, that after working a decade at a local Con Ed facility, he’s still struggling to provide for his family on a minimum wage salary with no benefits.
“With the salary we make, it’s almost impossible to send our children to school,” he said through an interpreter.
A representative for Assembly Member Linda B Rosenthal [D-67th District] jeered Con Edison’s “shameful hiring practices,” saying, “Every day they have the choice to support contractors that adhere to industry standards, and instead, they are engaging with contractors like Imperial and Nelson that fail to provide descent financial compensation and benefits. It’s unacceptable.”
Assembly Member Richard Gottfried [D-75th District], said every worker deserves a family-sustaining wage — and to have all the benefits that workers “working at the best employers get to have.”
“But the workers who work for Con Ed and who work for the contractors that Con Ed hires, do not make anywhere need those kinds of wages and benefits and are not treated with that kind of fairness — we want to fix that,” Gottfried said.
Time, however, is running out for Cuomo to sign the Utilities Prevailing Wage bill into law before the current legislative session runs out this year.
Con Edison building service workers and their 32BJ brothers and sisters have spent the last two months rallying outside the utility giant’s Irving Place offices urging Con Ed to make sure janitors and security officers are better compensated — and Governor Cuomo to sign the Utilities Prevailing Wage bill.
Neither the governor’s office or Con Edison could be reached for comment.
In September, Phil O’Brien, Con Ed’s assistant director of Media Relations, told LaborPress “This is a matter between the workers and their employer.” Cuomo spokesperson Jason Conwall is on record saying that the office and the Division of the Budget are still attempting to wade through the hundreds of Legislative bills that were passed earlier this year.
Certain bills, however, like the Reproductive Health Act, were passed and signed into law on the same day.
“I think there are bills [the governor’s] digging in a little deeper and his staff is digging in deeper — I assume that’s where this bill is at,” Assembly Member Harvey Epstein [D-74th District] told LaborPress on Thursday. “There’s no real opposition not to do it. Even Con Ed’s own opposition isn’t a real opposition. They’re not opposed to the idea, they’re opposed to an industry-based idea, which I think doesn’t hold water.”
The governor still has the option of requesting amendments to the Utilities Prevailing Wage bill or vetoing it outright. If the latter happens, the Legislature would have to try and override the veto during the next session.
Con Edison, meanwhile, rakes in a reported $12 billion in annual revenues and controls more than $48 billion in assets. Worker advocates insist the utility giant can make sure the people who run their buildings are paid prevailing wages and benefits.
“Con Edison has the money; we know they’re big — they can do this,” Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez told demonstrators. “We need to make sure that they listen to us and we will not shut up until we get what we deserve.”