July 3, 2012
By President Mario Cilento
Con Edison’s actions early Sunday morning were nothing short of reprehensible. They displayed unbridled contempt, not only for their workers, but for their loyal customers. Instead of continuing to bargain in good faith with Utility Workers Local 1-2, Con Edison chose to fire their union workers, thus endangering the safety and well-being of millions of New Yorkers.
The Utility Workers had a choice of whether to continue bargaining in good faith, or to strike, and they chose to negotiate. Con Edison had the choice to continue bargaining in good faith or to lock out their workers. They chose a lock-out.
It’s clear that Con Edison made this reckless choice, sacrificing the well-being of their customers and workers, for the sole purpose of attempting to intimidate and ultimately break the Utility Workers Union.
Well, on behalf of the 2.5 million workers of the New York State AFL-CIO, we have one very clear and simple message for Con Edison: You picked the wrong fight.
Our members are unified in this battle, a battle that started as a result of Con Edison’s deeply misguided notion that they could intimidate Local 1-2, and by extension the labor movement in New York. It’s just the opposite. The Utility Workers will have the resources of the New York State AFL-CIO and its brother and sister unions at their disposal for as long as necessary.
Not only has Con Edison put the safety and well-being of millions of New Yorkers at risk, they are also now on the verge of costing New York’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund approximately $3.4 million a week, beginning next week. Because Con Edison locked out their workforce, those workers will be eligible to file for Unemployment Insurance benefits seven days after the lockout began. As a result, 8,500 workers will be eligible for up to $405 a week for at least the next 26 weeks. Con Edison has single-handedly added to the economic difficulties facing our state and placed an unnecessary strain on the UI Trust Fund hurting other employers throughout the state who contribute to the fund.
We urge Con Edison to put its customers and workers first and to immediately begin negotiating in good faith with Local 1-2. If not, they better know that the 2.5 million union members of this state are in this battle for the long haul.