Environment and Energy

Lock Out Enters Second Week

Lock Out Enters Second Week

Placard displays Local 1-2's frustrationJuly 11, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
 
The 8,500 members of Local 1-2 have entered their second week of being locked out by Con Edison, and some of the union members on the picket line surrounded and penned in by NYPD steel barricades expressed more frustration than they did last week when some said that the lockout might end as temperatures steadily rose last week.

But as cooler weather settled in this week, and 5,000 managers still doing the work of Local 1-2 members in the field, the union is facing another challenge. According to an executive board member of Local 1-2, the company is hiring scabs from out of state, contractors who “float around to get work whenever they can.”

According to Alfonso Quiroza, a Con Edison spokesperson, said that, “Its common practice for the company to hire outside contractors,” who work alongside Local 1-2 members, but he wouldn’t comment on whether the number of scabs hired by the company has increased since the lockout began.

Quiroza didn’t respond to another request for comment about Con Ed’s CEO Kevin Burke’s optimistic future for Con Edison’s revenues. According to Robert, a 12-year electrician for the company, Burke spoke enthusiastically about the company’s future in an interview with Jim Cramer on his CNBC Show, “Mad Money,” where he said that the company expects its gas business to grow by 17 percent over the next five years, and because more people are applying for building permits and the population is growing in New York, it would seem then that Con Edison would have the revenues to pay Local 1-2’s defined benefit pension plan, which the union is struggling mightily to protect, rather than replace it with a cash balance plan. LP readers can see the May 22 interview via http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000091672

Quiroza’s only response was, “It’s a comparison of apples to oranges.”

Robert is angry at the company because he no longer has insurance to pay for his son’s blood infusions every three weeks.

“That’s what kills me. You [Con Ed] can hurt us, but don’t hurt my child.”

Robert and several other Local 1-2 members were asked what they would say if they saw Kevin Burke walking down the street.

Robert said, “How much money do you need? What happened to caring for the country and the people who work for you?”

John, who worked only three months for the company before the lockout but has been a lifelong machinist, said, “You need to think about what you’re doing. You get a five-year deal that pays you millions while we have to work 30 years to receive a meager pension.”

Rob, a meter reader for three years, said he’d tell Burke, “Do the right thing.”

“But if he did the right thing from the start, you wouldn’t have been locked out,” LaborPress commented.

“We didn’t do anything to deserve this,” said Rob.

LP also asked the Local 1-2 members, in light of the defeat in Wisconsin and attacks on labor throughout the country, how can labor go back on the offensive to push back against the corporate assault on their livelihoods.

Robert said, “I really don’t know.” He noted that voting for labor-friendly politicians might be one way, but then mulled it over and mentioned, “Maybe we need one giant rally in Washington, D.C., with millions of middle-class people in attendance. Things are really disheartening right now, but we can’t just give up.” marc@laborpress.org 

July 10, 2012

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