July 3, 2012
By Vincent Alvarez, Central Labor Council President
It’s the height of hypocrisy for Con Ed to lock out workers without a moment’s notice in the early morning hours and then seek to blame the union for a situation that was entirely of the company’s own making. Local 1-2 did everything it could to avert this lockout, including offering to work without a contract to ensure that New Yorkers’ safety and comfort were not compromised.
Con Ed gave its CEO a 5-year, $24.8 million compensation package, and recently upped its rates — the highest in the country — by 10%, and grossed $5 billion in profits last year. Yet it’s willing to lock its workers out rather than negotiate fairly and honestly about workers’ pensions and health care plans. All 8,500 workers would have stayed on the job and let talks continue, but Con Ed instead chose to play fast and loose with public safety.
The Utility Workers conducted themselves with dignity and respect during the days of negotiations that led up to this ill-conceived and dangerous lockout, and even as their contract deadline came and went late Saturday night, they still were willing to continue talks — anything to avoid a situation like the one we are in now, which potentially compromises public safety. Con Ed, on the other hand, disregarded everything but its own demands and, frankly, its own greed.
This is a company that has an $8 billion dollar pension fund, a CEO with a $30 million severance package, and over $5 billion in profits last year alone. Yet it wants to mandate that the hardworking men and women who service its customers and keep it running drop their defined pension and switch to less-dependable 401k-style plans. This company wants its workers to pay a 100% increase in health care contributions — yet it has over 40 senior staff making at least $300,000 annually.
We in the Labor movement have seen attacks like this before — and we’re prepared to do what it takes to fight back. The NYC Central Labor Council and its 1.3 million unionized members citywide are ready to offer support and resources to Utility Workers of America Local 1-2 for the duration of this contract battle.