I’ve been covering the Con Edison lockout for NY1. I want your opinion on this.
3.2 million people pay Con Ed for utilities, including electricity and gas. That’s the entire population of some countries. Talks broke down between the Utility Workers Union Local 1-2, covering Westchester and New York City, and Con Ed management, when their contact expired at midnight July 1.
Con Ed proposed:
- A cash pension, which means that upon retirement, workers receive a lump sum payment, instead of monthly checks until their death;
- An increase in the cost of medical insurance premiums;
- Raises about 1% lower than currently.
When the union refused, and would not guarantee not to strike if the contract was extended two weeks for more talks, the company locked them out and put managers in workers’ places out in the field. Many of these managers had been utility workers in the past.
The union says:
- Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke took in over $11 million in compensation last year.
- Workers claim during his tenure New Yorkers have endured one of the longest blackouts in history, steam pipe explosions, fatal gas explosions, unsafe working conditions leading to death, disease and dismemberment of workers, a culture under reporting the extent of power outages, and excessive rate increases.
Out on the picket line in front of Con Edison HQ on Irving Place in New York, the press was told of managers being severely injured, even killed, in one case, because they didn’t know what they were doing. These turned out not to be true.
Here in Westchester, there were reports of bullet holes and possibly arrow holes in a Con Ed electrical cable in Armonk and a Con Edison worker was accused of reporting a fake gas leak in Yonkers.
Talks between the two sides continue.
What do you think? Are workers being short sighted and irresponsible (in a few cases) in a tight economy? Or are they among the last wave of labor rights fighters in a business culture dominated by corporate greed?
additional reporting and photos by Jacqueline Silberbush