New York, NY – A promised investigation that could definitively determine if cable-TV giant Charter/Spectrum is in violation of its Franchise Agreement with the City of New York will commence by September 1, LaborPress has learned.
Kate Blumm, assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications [DoITT] said her agency is “committed to beginning” the Franchise Agreement audit by September 1 — “earlier than the 1 year initial timeframe.”
Six months ago, DoITT determined that Charter/Spectrum was using an “overly broad interpretation of the term ‘located in New York City’ as it refers to Article 17 of the Franchise Agreement and the use of contract workers.
Charter/Spectrum immediately balked, claiming that more than 75-percent of its vendors were located in the city. As a result, DoITT decided to interpret the term “located in the city” for them, and vowed to launch a new audit to determine compliance with the criteria set forth.
Blumm talked about the exchange between DoITT and Charter/Spectrum during the March 13, episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” podcast.
“Once we started to probe, we realized that Charter was essentially making the argument that if you are a worker and you are doing work in the city, therefore, you are located in the city,” Blumm said. “They pointed us to a Macmillan online dictionary definition of what the word ‘located’ means — and we kind of looked at ourselves and were scratching our heads — this is not the spirit and intent of this provision. This provision says that Charter has to use best efforts to use vendors located in the city.”
Striking IBEW Local 3 workers and their families, have long maintained that it is, in fact, quite apparent that Charter/Spectrum is using an abundance of out-of-state contractors in violation of Article 17 of the Franchise Agreement.
They point to the presence of commercial vehicles cruising city streets with Charter/Spectrum identification and out-of-state license plates, as well as others similar vehicles found weirdly parked on quiet residential blocks.
In one curious instance, a commercial van spotted on Staten Island with Charter/Spectrum identification was found bearing the address of a Far Rockaway florist shop. When striking workers visited the site at 338 Atlantic Avenue, they reported finding similar vehicles parked behind the retail store.
They pointed us to a Macmillan online dictionary definition of what the word ‘located’ means — and we kind of looked at ourselves and were scratching our heads. — DoITT Assistant Commissioner Kate Blumm.
On completion of its previous audit, DoITT further found “Charter failed to engage in practices with respect to its vendor selection that demonstrates compliance with the requirement set forth in Section 17.4 of the Franchise Agreements. In particular, Charter provided virtually no evidence that it considered the requirement of Section 17.4 when selecting vendors.”
The criteria the city is using to establish the definition of “located in the city” includes, being registered to do business in New York; holding a long-term commercial lease and having more than 50-percent of the workforce headquartered here.
The city’s announcement that it will once again audit Charter/Spectrum comes at the same time as Public Service Commission Chair John B. Rhodes’ announcement that his agency plans to get tougher on the cable-TV giant for allegedly failing to live up to its contractual obligations with New York State, as well as issuing false claims to the public.
“Not only has the company failed to meet its obligations to build out its cable system as required, it continues to make patently false and misleading claims to consumers that it has met those obligations without in any way acknowledging the findings of the Public Service Commission to the contrary,” Rhodes said in a July 20, statement. “Our patience with Charter has come to an end and now we must move to take much stronger actions.”
Struggling striking workers without their Charter/Spectrum jobs since March 28, 2017, have heard this kind of tough talk before.
Blumm acknowledged the growing frustration during her “Blue Collar Buzz” appearance, but also suggested that the administration’s hands are tied.
“We can’t be agenda-driven as Doitt,” Blumm said. “As the legally administering agency, we can’t intentionally try to trip them up. We have to give them the opportunity to come into compliance. That would require, you know, a decent amount of time. We are monitoring them very closely and they know that this is coming.”
Sanela Djencic, wife of striking IBEW Local 3 worker Vedat Djencic, confronted Mayor Bill de Blasio about Charter/Spectrum’s alleged Franchise Agreement violations almost a year ago, during an episode of the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC.
Hizzoner expressed support for strikers, but with regard to the audit, Mayor de Blasio said the investigation is “going to take awhile to play out.”