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Strike ‘Travesty’ – Charter/Spectrum Can Continue to Operate Beyond Expiring Franchise Agreement

February 21, 2020

By Joe Maniscalco

Charter/Spectrum’s Franchise Agreement with the City of New York expires July 18, — but will that make any difference to striking IBEW Local 3 workers and their families?

New York, NY – Charter/Spectrum has already survived fines, revocations, default notices and Governor Andrew Cuomo threatening to boot them out of the state — now, it looks like the telecom giant is gearing up to skate past an expiring Franchise Agreement with the City of New York. 

IBEW Local 3 members striking since March 2017, have been hoping that, as a “Union Town,” the  City of New York would take their plight into consideration — and spike Charter/Spectrum’s Franchise Agreement rather than renew it. 

But, now, that appears to be somewhat of a moot point since Charter/Spectrum can continue to operate normally whether or not its Franchise Agreement is actually renewed.

The Mayor’s Office confirmed on Thursday, that Charter/Spectrum can, indeed, operate in “holdover” mode beyond July 18’s expiration date. 

Charter/Spectrum can continue to operate in ‘holdover’ with its most recent franchise agreement as outlined in the terms of the existing agreement to allow for continuity of service for customers during the renewal-decision process, according to the Mayor’s Office.

City Council Member I. Daneek Miller [D-27th District], chair of the Committee on Civil Service & Labor, referenced the grim reality earlier this week.

“I don’t know how much not having this [renewed Franchise] Agreement is going to prevent them from doing business,” Council Member Miller told LaborPress. “It is my understanding that they can continue to exist.”

In August, 2018, almost a year-and-a-half into the strike, the Civil Service & Labor Committee chair, proclaimed Charter/Spectrum didn’t stand “a snowball’s chance in hell” of having its Franchise Agreement with the City of New York renewed.

“I feel exactly the same; I think the sentiments of my colleagues remains the same,” Council Member Miller said this week. “We’re coming up on three years next month; what has occurred is one of the greatest travesties in the history of the New York Labor Movement.”

Sanela Djencic, wife of former Charter/Spectrum technician Vedat Djencic, said that she still hopes the city will consider what Charter/Spectrum has done to striking IBEW Local 3 families when it reviews the telecom’s Franchise Agreement. 

“They’ve broken the union,” the Staten Island mom said. “They got away with it; it’s almost the perfect crime. They destroyed so may people’s lives.”

Over the past three years, the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications [DoITT] has issued two separate Notices of Default against Charter/Spectrum  for failing to fulfill terms contained in its Franchise Agreement with the city. But that isn’t preventing Charter/Spectrum from seeking a renewal. 

A body called the Franchise and Concession Review Committee [FCRC], consisting of the mayor, director of the Office of Management and Budget; the corporation counsel; the comptroller; a mayoral appointee and the borough presidents, exists to oversee Franchise Agreements.  

According to Feyer, however, “the FCRC will not have anything to review until after there is a formal solicitation.”

A public comment period has been open since May, 2018, and, thus far, garnered some 200 submissions — but DoITT has still not held any public hearings on Charter/Spectrum’s expiring Franchise Agreement.

City Council Member Justin Brannan [D-43rd District] calls the ongoing strike and Charter/Spectrum’s bid to renew its Franchise Agreement with the City of New York “a total disgrace.”

“For far too long, Charter Communications has operated in a manner that indicates utter disregard for its customers, its workers, and regulators,” the Brooklyn Council Member told LaborPress. “And that’s just not gonna fly with me and my colleagues in the City Council.”

Before the start of the 2017 strike broke out over healthcare and pension benefits, Vedat Djencic worked as a cable-TV technician for 13 years. He has since left the industry. Sanela Djencic looks back on the strike as “one of the hardest and darkest periods of our lives.”

“All of our lives have changed forever; the amount of damage…who knows if we’ll ever be able to recoup,” she said. “There was a certain lifestyle that [Charter/Spectrum workers] had — and that all changed in one day. Wherever we go now, we have to start at the very bottom.”

According to DoITT, the agency expects to review whether or not Charter/Spectrum has “substantially complied with material terms of the franchise” — among “other factors” when considering renewal.

“Look, nobody ever wants to go on strike,” Brannan added. “The men and women of IBEW Local 3 wanna go back to work! They’re just not willing to live on their knees and bow to corporate greed.”

Despite the ongoing IBEW Local 3 strike and the rest of Charter/Spectrum’s track record in New York — not the least of which includes a record-breaking $174 million settlement involving consumer fraud —  signals coming out of the Mayor’s Office also suggest that Charter/Spectrum may actually not have anything to worry about when it comes to renewing its Franchise Agreement with the city.

“Like all cable franchise agreements, Spectrum’s is governed by federal law, which has strict guidelines regarding when a franchise can and cannot be renewed,” Feyer reiterated in a statement.

Be that as it may, Miller insists there there is “no way” he expects Charter/Spectrum will receive a Franchise Agreement — “because, certainly, the company is not consistent with the values of New York City.”

“Imagine the impact on a community when you take 100 or 200 middle class jobs away? That is a heckuva economic impact on those communities,” he said. “This is not something that we’ve taken lightly. Consequences should be that [Charter/Spectrum] should not receive a franchising agreement.”

February 21, 2020

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