New York, NY – The striking group of Charter/Spectrum workers who have introduced a plan to replace the flagging telecom king with a new worker cooperative that would better serve subscribers and workers alike, says the timing to get behind the effort couldn’t be more perfect.
On July 27, the NY Public Service Commission [PSC] rescinded its approval of Charter/Spectrum’s 2016 merger with Time-Warner Cable after determining the number two cable TV company in the nation has “no intention of providing the public benefits upon which the Commission’s earlier approval was conditioned.”
And earlier this week, 23 members of the New York City Council, led by Rafael Espinal [D-37th District] and Francisco Moya [D-21st District], called on the city to stop doing business with Charter/Spectrum in the future.
Troy Walcott, the striking Charter/Spectrum survey tech spearheading the new worker coop, called the actions being taken against the telecom “amazing.”
“You couldn’t have more perfect timing,” Walcott told LaborPress this week. “For them to basically say, we don’t want you in the city anymore and we want a better option — and us introducing the coop at the same time — it provides the answer to what they’re basically looking for.”
Kathleen Clark, communications director, Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, told LaborPress “The current way of delivering internet service in the city is failing when it comes to basic fairness for customers and workers.”
“We recently published a Truth in Broadband report that is the clearest picture that we have to date on the disparity of internet access in New York City and found that nearly a third of all New Yorkers do not have broadband in the home,” Clark said in an email. “The City is open to any ideas and proposals that will help us achieve the mayor’s commitment to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet for all New Yorkers by 2025.”
The city is now reviewing more than three dozen responses it has received to its NYC Connected citywide broadband Request for Information [RFI].
The current way of delivering internet service in the city is failing when it comes to basic fairness for customers and workers. — Kathleen Clark, communications director, Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer
Charter/Spectrum, meanwhile, is on record saying that it intends to fight the PSC revocation in court — and expects the wrangling to drag on for years.
But, again, Walcott couldn’t be happier about that scenario.
“We all know there’s going to be lots of legal battles — Spectrum is not going to go out that easily —but that’s perfect because we can build out a new system for this city while they fight their legal battles,” he says.
Regardless of the forthcoming legal battles, Charter/Spectrum is facing the increasing possibility that the City of New York will ultimately choose not to renew its Franchise Agreement with the telecom when the existing agreement expires in 2020.
“The fact that the state has chosen to remove [Charter/Spectrum] from this city because they are not abiding by their agreement — that has to be considered in re-authorizing the resolution that’s going to be coming up very shortly,” Walcott says. So, with that now in their file, if the city tells them in 2020, we’re not renewing their franchise — that’s perfect because they would have to service the city for the next two years, while we build up a new, rich fiber optic system. And at the end of the two years the replacement can be seamless.”
As an IBEW Local 3 shop steward, Walcott has long been concerned about the welfare of his striking brothers and sisters. He talked about some of those pressing concerns last February on an episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz.”
“I’m hearing everything, from every angle — guys losing their homes, going through bankruptcy, losing cars, marriages are going bad, Walcott said. “Everything because of a company that wants to remove the union. Not even because of money or anything else — it’s a simple attack.”
During the same episode, Walcott recounted a “chief bargaining person” for Charter/Spectrum telling strikers, “I promise on my mother’s grave — you’ll never get back your retirement and medical.”
Walcott, a 20-year veteran of the telecom industry, says the worker coop could fulfill the build out obligations the PSC maintains Charter/Spectrum has failed to meet.
“That’s one of our main points,” Walcott says. “They don’t build out to those areas because it’s not as profitable for them. It’s no problem for us to build out to the people who are supposed to get service because everybody should have service. With major corporations, all they care about is that bottom line. Their business model can never work better than ours.”
Clark said that her agency has not received the worker coop proposal through the RFI platform, but remains open to reviewing it.