New York, NY – New York City Council Member I. Daneek Miller, chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, said on Monday it’s “pretty obvious” that Charter/Spectrum has not bargained “in good faith” with striking IBEW Local 3 workers.
“It is pretty obvious by their actions that they have not bargained in good faith, and that they have violated many of the provisions of the Franchise Agreement,” Miller said just prior to hearings that were scheduled to look at Charter/Spectrum’s track record in New York City.
The telecommunications giant gobbled up Time-Warner Cable two years ago, in a deal valued at roughly $65 billion. For the last 450-plus days, members of IBEW Local 3 have been out on strike, citing attacks on long-held pension and medical plans. At the same time, the corporation has also been on the hot seat for allegedly failing to complete its promised buildout across the New York State and fulfilling its Franchise Agreement with the City of New York.
IBEW Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erikson quoted a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo stating, “There cannot be two tiers of justice – one for rich corporations and one for everyone else.”
“What got us here,” Erikson said, “is the destruction of a 40-year relationship that this union had with a company called Time-Warner, that respected its workforce and negotiated collective bargaining agreements for 40 years.”
According to Erikson, those past agreements yielded defined benefits pensions and medical plans that took care of retirees.
“And see, that’s the difference,” Erikson added. “When you get a new company that says, we don’t care what you want, we know what’s best for you, and we’re not going to agree to that anymore, and if you don’t like it you can go out into the street. And that’s what they’ve done. They’ve tried to starve these members into submission.”
Charter/Spectrum’s Franchise Agreement with the City of New York isn’t up until 2020. But the ongoing strike, continued legal issues on both the city and state levels, as well as a spate of customer complaints about outages and poor service, could impact the mega-corp’s ability to continue operating in the Empire State.
“Things aren’t always black and white — but today, they are black and white,” Council Member Barry Grodenchik [D-District 23] said. “The men and women of Local 3 have been asking for a contract; and they’ve been asking for a contract that mirrors the contract they have enjoyed for a long time. And if Spectrum doesn’t understand that…well, we’ve got a message for Spectrum: We’re not going to help you. It’s that simple. We’re here today because working men and women deserve simple respect. They shouldn’t be going backwards. All across our nation, people are trying to do that to the working men and women of the United States of America.”
First time I met with Charter, heard them testify, it was clear to me that that’s what this was about — Charter was here to break this union; to teach this union a lesson, and to establish itself as the company that broke the back of Labor in New York City. — City Council Member Rory Lancman [D-District 24]
In response to detractors, Charter/Spectrum argues that it never wanted a strike, made multiple attempts to resolve it, and that it is the union that has not been a “true partner in negotiations.”
“With Local 3 refusing to even discuss the terms in Charter’s offer, we moved forward last summer and implemented wage increases and other worker benefits,” Charter/Spectrum Spokesperson John Bonomo told LaborPress. “Today, we are putting more money into our employees’ pockets, providing them with excellent benefits, and making substantial investments to shore up their retirement benefits that are in jeopardy.”
Faced with a more than a year-old strike, Bonomo said that Charter/Spectrum was willing to revisit parts of its proposal to Local 3.
“To get a deal done, Charter earlier this year offered to continue paying into Local 3’s failing benefits plan for 2 years for the workers closest to retirement while maintaining the significant wage increases we have been giving our employees since last summer,” Bonomo said in an email. “As with our previous offers, Local 3 leadership rejected it out of hand.”
Noting the punishing effects the 450-plus day strike has had on his constituents in Electchester, Queens, Council Member Rory Lancman [D-District 24] said on Monday, “You really appreciate the impact and the devastation that has been wrought by one company’s determination to break this union.”
“First time I met with Charter, heard them testify, it was clear to me that that’s what this was about — Charter was here to break this union; to teach this union a lesson, and to establish itself as the company that broke the back of Labor in New York City.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said, “We’re at a point where we need Charter to sit down at the table and negotiate again in good faith.”
“What we don’t want to happen is this becomes the precedent for their negotiations with this union,” the Queens borough president added. “Thousands have been without service for cable, TV and phone. And I will tell you as the borough president of Queens, we have had more than one or two negotiations and conversations with Charter on the fact that, in the last year or two, thousands of people have been without service — for cable, for TV and for phone — and I think much [of that is] because they don’t have the expertise of Local 3 on the ground protecting our constituents.”
Erikson further argued that Monday’s hearings should also look at the way Internet service is delivered in this town.
“We have a system that is kind of broken,” the IBEW Local 3 leader said. “You don’t have a lot of choice, you can’t say, ‘I want to dump Spectrum, give me something else.’ There should be an option — maybe a public option — for Internet here in this city. But we need to get back to a place where citizens of the City of New York are treated a lot better than the way they’re being treated by this greedy corporation and it’s CEO, who you know, made $98 million last year.”
To that end, Erikson also said that the union will take action.
“We’re going to petition the City of New York, that if they’re not willing to settle this, or fix their problems — that they should run them out of New York. They should not renew this Franchise with a corporation like them. They don’t deserve to be here in New York City.”