Sunset Park

Union workers strike in Sunset Park

Public advocate and councilmembers want contract resolution

April 18, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Electrical Workers Local Union No. 3 members picket in front of the Spectrum (Time Warner Cable) building in Sunset Park.

The ongoing breakdown of talks between Charter Communications Inc. and its employees, who are represented by Local Union 3, has Public Advocate Letitia James calling on Charter to meet with the 1,800 striking employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3 to negotiate a new contract. Charter Communications bought Time Warner Cable (TWC) for $55 billion in May 2015 and renamed it Spectrum

The strike is over the fact that the company wants to take back pension and medical benefits,” Derek Jordan, business representative for Local Union No. 3, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “We’re also facing a situation where the employees are being disciplined for repeat service calls that are tied into Wi-Fi and poor internet service. That also ties into the Eric Schneiderman lawsuit where the company has basically falsified information regarding their internet speeds and our technicians are being disciplined over that.”

After an investigation that lasted for 16 months, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman determined that Spectrum-TWC subscribers were “getting dramatically shortchanged on both speed and reliability. Spectrum has an estimated 2.5 million subscribers across New York state.

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On April 4, James penned a letter to Tom Rutledge, president and CEO of Charter Communications, urging Charter “to be a good corporate actor that recognizes that growth relies on a strong workforce, rather than impoverishing working class families in our city.” He added, “This is not what partnership looks like.” The letter was endorsed and signed by 33 councilmembers including Mark Treyger, Carlos Menchaca, Stephen Levin, Brad Lander, Robert Cornegy and Vincent Gentile.

James’ letter went on to say, “Charter’s current demands deprive New Yorkers of the benefits and wages that strong middle-class families deserve. The cuts to wage and benefits Charter is proposing to the 1,700 hardworking union employees is unconscionable. It is seeking to eliminate or diminish basic provisions of overtime, health care and retirement security.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile told the Eagle, “A reconciliatory pay raise for reductions and eliminations to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 workers’ pension and medical plans is no way to treat employees. I commend the Public Advocate’s and my colleagues’ persistence in urging billion dollar corporations, like Charter Communications, to negotiate an equitable contract that is reflective of the employees’ contributions to the company.” 

Charter spokesperson John J. Bonomo told the Eagle, “Spectrum is dedicated to providing great service to our customers and investing in our workforce is a critical part of how we do that. This is why Spectrum is offering our field technicians a pay increase larger than the union has demanded, along with competitive and robust healthcare and retirement benefits. We believe this greater compensation to be more beneficial to our employees and allows us to      grow a well-paid, highly skilled workforce for the benefit of our customers.”

According to Bonomo, the union and the company (TWC at the time) did indeed have a contract from 2013 until it expired on March 31. “We are disappointed that the NY Attorney General chose to file this lawsuit regarding Time Warner Cable’s broadband speed advertisements that occurred prior to Charter’s merger,” Bonomo added. “Charter made significant commitments to NY State as part of our merger with Time Warner Cable in areas of network investment, broadband deployment and offerings, customer service and jobs.”

Members of IBEW however feel that the Charter’s compensation is not sufficient and that there is a significant downgrading of the health care and pension plans being offered.

Both sides appear to be at odds about what’s required to settle this matter. “New York is a city that always has and always will stand behind its workers,” said James. “When the state agreed to allow Charter to acquire Time Warner Cable it was contingent upon their pledge to protect our workers and give them the fair treatment they deserve.  It is inexcusable that Charter has refused to negotiate with IBEW and we will continue to protest until they come to the table in good faith.”

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