Workers Protest Con Ed Lockout
(Photos by David Greene)
By David Greene
BRONX, NEW YORK, July 3- More than 8,500 union employees of Consolidated Edison were locked out at plants across the city, as contract negotiations broke down after a midnight deadline on June 30.
The workers, who repair and maintain the electric power grid that keeps our computers, televisions and air-conditioners running are now picketing outside plants across the city, as some 5,000 managers are now performing the emergency repairs needed to keep the power flowing.
One worker outside the Van Nest plant, that employed about 500
workers, claimed workers were fighting for maintaining their pension and medical benefits that he claimed management wanted to eliminate completely.
The worker, who would only give his first name, "Henry," continued, "They want to eliminate our benefits completely, so that's one of the sticking points."
Henry claimed that management wanted to change the federal mandate of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), allowing injured workers to be fired when the compensation runs out, explaining, "They want to fire your ass when your FMLA is over."
"It's going to be a very hot summer for the people of New York," Henry continued, "Management can't do the job that we do. They can supervise the job, but the qualified people are the people in the field and with 8,500 less people, there's no way they can handle the job."
Members of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America claim that Con Edison CEO Craig Ivy was brought in from Virginia two-years ago after cutting benefits to union worker's in that state.
One Van Nest resident stated, "It's about time for the unions to start showing some muscle. The company is obviously making a lot of people money, let’s be honest. New York State and New York City residents pay a lot of money for something that everybody else gets for half-price or less. I don't think these guys are getting the money, but the shareholder's and the CEO are."
According to Con Edison's website, "All company personnel have been preparing for the possibility of a union work stoppage for months."
Con Edison's walk-in payment centers are now closed and normal meter readings have also been suspended for the immediate future.
Both the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo continue to monitor the situation.
Con Edison currently serves 3.2 million customers that represent
nearly 9 million people in the New York City's five boroughs and Westchester County.
Workers at Con Edison last went on strike in the summer of 1983, when the company had 16,500 workers. That strike lasted nine-weeks.