Mom’s Union Spirit Inspires Striking Spectrum Tech
Features, Law and Politics, Municipal Government, New York, Retail

Mom’s Union Spirit Inspires Striking Spectrum Tech

February 10, 2018

By Joe Maniscalco

New York, NY – Striking Spectrum worker Alfred Boothe, 40, didn’t much like his job when he first started out in the warehouse nine years ago. But his mom, a

Charter Spectrum: Crushing the middle-class in pursuit of more profit.

unionized social worker with the City of New York, convinced him to stick with it because of the union benefits. Marlene Boothe, 69, became her son’s biggest booster when the strike started 10 months ago, and even though, she can no longer speak after suffering a series of devastating strokes back in November, Alfred is sure his mom wants him to continue the fight.

“If my mom could speak, she would tell me to fight, fight, fight, to the end,” Alfred tells LaborPress. “She really is my motivation for the strike. When I had my doubts, she was the one who was like, ‘It’s all or nothing.'”

Nine years ago, the East Flatbush father of two says working for the cable company — then Time-Warner Cable — was much different than it is now under the control of Charter Communications.

Over the last year, the second-largest cable provider in the nation has reportedly added thousands of new Internet, voice and video customers to its millions of paid subscribers, and, according to Boothe, also set about creating an uncharacteristically “crab in a barrel mentality” among an increasingly hard pressed workforce.

“For me, the strike was a no-brainer,” Boothe says. “Especially, if we’re not asking for a raise. We’re not asking for more money; we just wanted to keep it exactly the way we had it. We’ve never been on strike before. This is our first strike in 40 years. I don’t think the union is asking for too much. We don’t want raises, we don’t want any concessions — we just want it the way it was.”

The way it was, allowed Boothe and other IBEW Local 3 workers to carve out middle-class existences largely owing to their union healthcare coverage and pension plans. Two things, under the leadership of $98 million-a-year CEO Tom Rutledge, Charter/Spectrum is hellbent on dismantling and replacing with its own “excellent health insurance choices” and “401(k) savings plan[s].”

“They don’t want a middle class,” Boothe says. “They want rich and they want poor. There’s no in between and no buffer.

“My daughter is due for root canal,” Boothe says. “If we had this root canal through the company, I would be paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket. Meanwhile, with the union benefits I pay nothing.”

The veteran cable technician also doesn’t like being forced to bet his future on Wall Street’s casino crapshoot.

“I don’t want my money in the [stock] market,” Boothe says. “I need to have something where I know that I have a stipend every month when I retire, and not have to worry about where my next dollar is coming from. With 401(k)s, at any given time, a company can go south. I don’t like anyone gambling with my future.”

For Boothe, Charter/Spectrum’s insistence on scrapping Local 3’s healthcare coverage and pension plan epitomizes the rapacious culture of greed permeating corporate America today.

“This was a wake up call for me to realize that these Fortune 500 Companies really don’t care about people; they just care about the stockholders and making more and more money,” he says. “What I want to know from them is, what’s a good number for them to stop? [Of course,] there is no good number — numbers are infinite. Greed begets more greed. You make one billion, you’re gonna want to make two billion. And it doesn’t stop. And it’s all on the hard backs of middle class people.”

During Charter Communications’ Q4 2017 Earnings Conference Call held on February 2, Rutledge boasted, “Our 2017 customer results were as planned. For the full year, we grew total customer relationships by nearly 4% despite all the significant changes we made to our business. Quality sales have increased and the worst of legacy Time Warner Cable churn is behind us.”

“They don’t want a middle class,” Boothe says. “They want rich and they want poor. There’s no in between and no buffer. And it’s not like these guys cant’ afford it — they can afford it. Their stock prices are flying through the roof off of the acquisition.”

After nearly a year on strike, Boothe says there’s a lot of anger and feelings of betrayal on the picket line — much of it directed at the public servants elected to supposedly champion New York’s working men and women.

“If you don’t put the pressure down now, other companies could come to New York and feel free to do what they want to do, or manipulate whatever they want to manipulate,” Boothe says. “It’s sad that the elected officials that we vote for, who we feel have our best interests at heart, really don’t. I thought they would do more. But nothing has really moved. Nothing any politician has done has moved [the strike].”

Many strikers specifically point to the city’s conduct in pursuing an investigation into Charter’s use of out-of-state workers. Striking workers contend that the cable giant is in violation of its franchise agreement with the City of New York, which limits the number of out-of-state workers it can employ, and that elected officials have failed to act.

“It’s really demoralizing,” Boothe says. “I’ve seen people lose homes, I’ve seen people lose wives, I’ve seen people lose everything just fighting for what they’re fighting for.”

Boothe calls the idea of returning to Charter/Spectrum without union representation, “pointless.” Contemplating the kinds of workplaces daughters Emilia, 15, and Brianna, 20, are set to inherit, keeps him up at night worrying.

“I definitely believe, for them to be part of middle class or higher, they will have to become people who are into corporate greed; people who climb on another person’s back to be successful,” he says. “Those are the things I fear for my children. The very fiber of American culture is becoming more and more hostile to the middle-class or lower-middle class. I think the 1-percent is really putting a choke hold on the workforce.”

Sometimes, all Boothe can think to do is pray.

“That’s all I can do…and look to my kids for motivation and keep going,” he says. “If I give up, what’s going to happen to them? I can’t just give up on my family. This is when they need me the most.”

February 10, 2018

5 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Mom’s Union Spirit Inspires Striking Spectrum Tech”

  1. Tim says:

    I work for a company that recently saw their Operations Tech poulation vote for CWA LOCAL 3. As a manager, I saw the techs lied to over and over by the union. Promised pay raises, better hours, garantee OT. None of which was True. Everything is subjected to negotiations.

    Long sad story very short. Workers wound up with a contract that had union workers making anywhere between 6%-15% less than non union. Vacations was negativity impacted, and along list of other compensation they were not privy too.

    One thing for certain, union workers paid for the pleasure of now being represented. I saw grown hardworking men litterally crying when they were finally exposed to the actual contract, and all.the union false statements.and promises could no longer be hidden.

    I can’t speak for all unions, my only exposure was with local 3. Other unions may get their members what they truly need and deserve, so the truth is in the end contract.

    I’m a middle class working, and always waork with the premise that.if you work hard, fly straight, you will be compensated and treated fairly. You don’t need some union goon sitting there acting like he know anything about labor laws to justify union dues It was embarrassing to watch.

    My friends at spectrum. Proof is always positive when your union let you guys sit out and loose your home and lively hood. When the company holds strong you blame the company, who do you blame when you pay your dues and get left out in the street.

    I saw union spectrum techs coming in begging for work in a non union company. I always ask, why won’t you just cross the picket line. All replied the same. “it’s a matter of moral support for the brotherhood”. Yet here you are looking for work when the “Brotherhood” did nothing to help you in your time of need. [sick].

    • Alfred says:

      I understand where your coming from. I can only speak for my union. IBEW Local 3 has always taken care of its workforce for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t for my mom a unionized social worker I wouldn’t have had the decent life growing up. But as far as Spectrum is concerned they do not want us to have a decent life with a great benefit plan. It’s funny before spectrum took over our workforce employees were happy. Our raises were small due to the fact that we loved our benefits. Time Warner Cable always worked with the union to help keep the workforce going. The company never lost money in quarterly earnings. So my question is. Why change something that has always worked. But the underlying facts is GREED. And when greed drives a company the employees take the heat for that drive.

  2. Charles says:

    Get some SCTE certs and start moving your career forward if you’re not making enough or even suddenly offered less due to a merger. If you won’t ‘gamble’ on the stock market (where others represent your interests and are successful at growing wealth 95% of the time) why would you gamble on union representation (where others represent your interests and are successful… less often)? Most jobs become less valuable as time passes because new jobs with new skills and new technology can cover the tasks of the old job without wasting value. This is common sense. Nobody deserves for things to stay the same if they aren’t keeping up. All things earned are earned by hard work and a drive to learn more. Focus on the learn more part, I’m sure you’re a hard worker. If you’re in a technical role, get some certifications during your time on strike – it will free you from the chains of the union and the chains of big corporations. It will give you — options –. Options are always better than betting on one thing with everything you’ve got. Nobody is on your side but you. Both your union and your company can care about you, but that doesn’t really serve much of a purpose beside making people feel better – which neither of them will ever care about. Of course both will lie and say they do care – and nobody deserves $98 million for anything – but striking because they don’t causes wasted productivity to your family, city, state, and country.

  3. Kurt says:

    Hey corporate lackey. Please stop coming writing bullshit. We have eaten way more than enough. Unions aren’t perfect but am I supposed to leave my future up to some greedy asshole? NEGATIVE!
    Unions were created because of people like you and because of companies like Rectum. YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED!
    Let’s have a flashback to the time before any unions, to unsafe working conditions, to forced labor, to companies doing whatever they wanted.
    Don’t be an idiot or a jerk, Unions need to be monitored and kept doing the right thing but letting them go and allowing greedy bastards and their lackeys to control millions of lives is NOT AN OPTION!

  4. Ms. B. says:

    I can hear the condescending tone in your voice as you comment on this story. what you view from what you “have seen” is only a small part of the bigger picture. How can you truly make a comment on something which you know nothing about and why not truly state the facts on how all of this is affecting us all over corporate America, not just the Union Strikers but also our corporate brothers and sisters too. Making speculations from what you “see” from the corporate end of things is not enough to make a fair and unbiased statement. First, allow me start off by saying that I have had the pleasure of being in both the Corporate and the Union industry for more than 15 years. I will explain how the corporate culture works and not hold back as you are doing. You said that the Union is letting the workers sit down and loose their homes and livelihood. Not true. First, it is a personal choice to strike. You have the right to participate in the strike if you willingly chose to do so or continue to work and not participate. You make that decision not the Union. Yes, it is true that being in the Union the pay is not as good as our corporate counterparts, and it’s only as good as the terms and conditions of the contract. However if Charter Communications Spectrum negotiated in good faith and stopped rejecting every proposal the Union has offered than the Spectrum Strikers wouldn’t have to be out of work for this amount of time!! Almost one year!!!. It’s disgusting and despicable how the Company is treating it’s fellow employees. Spending millions of dollars in rebranding from Time Warner Cable to Spectrum and not investing that money back into it’s failing infrastructure or it’s employees. You say that the Strikers are “begging” for their jobs, that’s not true! Their “begging” as you so poorly say is because the company has bullied them into submission with their standoff approach of whom will out last whom. The company is wasting millions of dollars in court fees and clogging up the legal system with frivolous lawsuits against the Union. How is that fair? Why do this? Do you want to be known as the “Evil” corporation? Instead of wasting millions of dollars negotiate a fair contract for these workers to get back to work instead of trying to starve them into submission!! Secondly the Union is providing financial assistance and employment opportunities to the Strikers while trying to get a resolution to end the strike. Your statement that with “hard work and flying straight you will be compensated and treated fairly”. Well let’s take a look at that shall we. First, as part of management since You’re a manager you and I both know that you are an “at will” employee. Meaning the company can terminate your employment with them at any given time at their own discretion. So long as it isn’t unlawful such as discrimination, retaliation, etc. You’re replaceable! Some states vary and I can only speak on New York’s laws. Thirdly, you know that when a company want to do “restructuring” to it’s infrastructure many departments will close and before you know it, you’ll be laid off. As long as the company provides 3 months notice according to the WARN ACT you will not have enough time to get a job and don’t even think of transferring to another department to be spared from the layoff since it’s not in the company’s best interest to allow you go, remember B.A.U the acronym for business as usual!! You will remain in that department so as to continue while the company starts the process of firing people since you’re an at will employee so as not to payout any severance packages. So many of my corporate colleagues whom worked for many years were fired before the end of the 3 month period. That is how the company saved money. You and I both know that’s the ways of corporate culture. Corporate colleagues being pressured to produce and have the fear of loosing their employment if they don’t attain company goals! Is that your idea of a healthy work environment?. Do you agree with that? People fearing a “PIP” which is an acronym for performance improvement plan. In 6-8 months you loose your job for performance!! Is that right? No, it’s not!. You as part of management know that when a company wants to cut costs they will start by terminating VP’s, Directors and Managers. Anyone whom is in the 100k salary will go first which means you since you are part of management. The company will keep the work force temporarily until the completion of the department closure. Remember the company is an Apex predetor and you are just an “at will” fish in the corporate food chain! Merging departments together to save money and forced workloads without any extra compensation is terrible! You know as as manager that if you or any corporate employees even speak up you’ll both be labeled as “trouble makers” so for the corporate employees the company will look for ways to end their employment. As for you, don’t even think you’ll be promoted to Director of anything since they will keep you in your same position until the company no longer needs you! This is the moral in corporate America. The benefits of being in the Union I can say is that there is some form of job protection since it is a contract so you are guaranteed employment so long as you don’t violate the terms and conditions of it. Meaning breaking companys rules and regulations. Medical benefits are beyond excellent no corporate company can match! The rate you pay doesn’t change if you start growing your family as oppose to corporate health plans that increases with a growing family and your paycheck is chump change due to the high cost of corporate insurance. You better be healthy or else if you choose a cheaper plan, you will surely come out of pocket for what the corporate plan doesn’t cover!! As far as other benefits you have a pension. Most corporate companies no longer offer pensions. This is the case for Spectrum. Charter Communications froze all existing pensions from corporate employees after the Time Warner Cable merger!! They promised corporate employees that with the merger they will not loose their pension and moving forward any new employees from Charter Communications will not include a pension plan in their “robust employee package”. However that is not what happened to the existing employees from Charter Communications formerly known as Time Warner Cable. They all had their pensions frozen and Charter Communications Spectrum response was the existing employees are “new” to the company!!! The old bait and switch, that was the unethical corporate loophole the company used to deceive it’s corporate brothers and sisters!!! That is so disgusting!! I for one agree with the Union on this one. I would like to retire with dignity and know if and when I retire due to my age or perhaps become incapacitated and can no longer be able to work I can sustaine myself in some way with my pension since who knows if social security will be available if not abolished by the time I retire. The market is volitile and I want to be assured that if incase the stock market crashes and I loose most of my money in the 401k I will at least have my pension to sustain me. This is the reason why the Spectrum Strikers are fighting for. Medical benefits and a pensions so as to retire with dignity for all the hard work they put in to the company. All employees whether Corporate or Union play a very big part on a company’s success! We are the legs of the chair that the CEO comfortably sits on and that position commands respect!!! It’s comments such as yours without having all the information and facts that divides us all and allows corporate culture to continue to instill this form of practice!! The company has the power to do what’s right for all their employees. If they choose to do so. I am a firm believer that a happy worker is a prosperous worker for the company. Why have all this negative publicity Spectrum?. Remember one thing, public perception is key to the longevity of the company and soon the public will see and the fate of the company will lie on the public’s hands. As for you “Manager” I am sure you have had thoughts about how long are you going to last and the fear of being “at will” is scary just know that you have an expiration stamp and you are not immune though you work hard and fly straight as you say. At the end of the day that doesn’t guarantee your employment in the corporate world and you know it! It’s what’s best for the company and their bottom line!!. So unless corporate companies do right by their employees I prefer to have some protection than none at all. It’s cold and lonely in those corporate streets!!! Trust me. Good luck to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *