Building Trades, Features, New York

Mayor, Trumka Turn Out for Spectrum Strikers

September 20, 2017

By Steve Wishnia

IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson speaks at the Foley Square rally

New York, N.Y.—The city’s top three elected officials joined with major national and local labor leaders Sept. 18 in Foley Square to support the 1,800 Spectrum cable-TV workers who have been on strike for almost six months.The rally was the second part of a protest that began in Brooklyn. Hundreds of marchers streamed over the Brooklyn Bridge to join others already assembled in front of the federal and state courthouses, filling the southern half of the square. They included members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, the Spectrum strikers’ union, and contingents from the Hotel Trades Council, the New York State Nurses Association, SEIU Local 32BJ, and numerous others.

“The AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement have your back, today, tomorrow, and as long as it takes to win a contract,” AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka told the crowd. “An injury to one is an injury to all. They won’t injure Local 3 without taking all of us on.” As New York City has the nation’s largest concentration of union members, added Central Labor Council head Vincent Alvarez, “it is our job to stand up and support these workers.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio offered support, declaring that “New York City is a union town,” offering to mediate the strike, and warning that Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge, the head of Spectrum’s parent company, “will be a good citizen or suffer the consequences.”

Public Advocate Letitia James pressed for more, telling Gov. Andrew Cuomo “now is the time to bring this corporation to the table,” and, as a man in the crowd shouted “Pull the franchise,” declaiming, “I say to the mayor, cancel the franchise.” City Comptroller Scott Stringer, saying that his job requires him to watch over finances, noted that “Spectrum is making a lot of money,” and added that he was “going to scrutinize every deal, every period, every sentence.”

Rutledge was the highest-paid media executive in the U.S. last year, receiving $98.5 million in total compensation. Most of it came in stock options, as Charter quadrupled its size by acquiring Time Warner Cable and the smaller Bright House Networks. It is now the U.S.’s second-largest cable provider, after Comcast.

Rutledge makes $98 million a year and he’s still trying to take away workers’ pensions and health care, noted city building-trades leader Gary LaBarbera. “Not only are you a piece of shit, you’re a no-good rotten bastard,” he concluded.

IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson, in a fluorescent-orange Local 3 cap, took a more soft-spoken approach, saying that with CEOs’ pay up and wages suppressed, all American workers should join unions. Last year’s Verizon strike, he continued, was settled in ten days after Labor Secretary Thomas Perez brought both sides to the table, and now, “we have a better relationship with Verizon for doing the right thing.”

“Something has gone awry in this country,” said Local 3 Business Manager Christopher Erikson. “We have had enough.” We also have to get the “scabs and strikebreakers” Spectrum is using out of the city, he told the crowd later, reciting a version of the circa-1913 definition attributed to Jack London: “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, He had some awful shit left over with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water-logged brain, and a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.”

September 20, 2017

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