By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Striking workers stepped up the pressure on Charter Communications to return to the bargaining table as the labor dispute drags on.
Some 1,800 members of Local 3, a chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, are in a bitter fight over the cable TV giant’s plan to gut their health and retirement benefits. Because of the dispute, a number of workers have depleted their household savings, sold their homes, while others have become homeless.
Since the strike began in March 2017, the union counted on the support of New York’s unions and many elected officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Hundreds of electrical workers and supporters, including a contingent of DC 37 activists, turned out Dec. 5 for a major demonstration at Charter Communications’ headquarters in Manhattan. The Spectrum cable company — a subsidiary of Charter Communications—has 2.5 million subscribers in New York.
The protestors described the company’s continued attacks on the striking workers’ health and pension benefits as union busting.
“We made every effort to make an agreement,” said Local 3’s business manager, Chris Ericson, who served as the emcee of the demonstration. “They walked away because they didn’t want a union.”
“Your fight is our fight,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who described the attack on Local 3 as a reflection of the assault on workers throughout the country.
DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido told the workers they could count on the strong backing of New York City’s 300,000 public employees and their families.
“They are about corporate greed,” New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said of Spectrum. He pledged the labor federation’s continuing support for the workers, saying “As a movement, we fight for our heart. They fight for their wallet.”
Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie led the crowd in a chant: “People before Profit!”
He said, “You stay strong. Don’t stop until you get a contract.”
“New York is a union town,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council. He underscored how important the Local 3 struggle is to the labor movement in general, pointing to Charter Communications attack on the workers’ health-care benefits.
“It’s a disgrace what’s going on,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council of
Greater New York, who also noted that the health-care benefits of union workers are a key target of corporations.
Ninety-four percent of union workers have access to an employer-provided health-care benefit, compared to 67 percent of non-union workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“But they don’t understand the labor movement,” LaBarbera said. “When we are attacked, we fight back.”
DC 37 Blog is an official online publication of DC 37, AFSCME, which represents 121,000 public service workers in New York City and nearby areas.