Storms, Gov. Help Unplug Con Edison Labor Dispute

Lockout Ends With New Contract

Over 8,000 Con Edison workers are back on the job after a tentative contract agreement between their union and the utility company was reached last Thursday, July 26, ending a lockout that lasted nearly four weeks.

Executives at Con Edison and the leadership of Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 came to terms on a labor deal after Gov. Andrew Cuomo intervened in the labor dispute and got both sides back to the bargaining table.

The Con Edison union workers had been locked out of their jobs by the company on July 1 after both sides failed to reach a new labor agreement. The union had claimed that the company was threatening to gut the workers’ pension fund.

While the lockout went on, over 5,000 Con Edison managers were tasked with the day-to-day operation of one of the nation’s largest power grids, serving 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County. Throughout the dispute, elected officials claimed that the impasse was a danger to public health, fearing that the reduced number of staff would be unable to respond to power failures and storm-related outages.

With severe weather forecasted for New York State last Thursday morning, Governor Cuomo reportedly reached out to both Con Edison and the utility union for a temporary deal to ensure that workers were back on the job to prepare for and respond to any storm-related problems.

“At my request and in the interest of the safety of New Yorkers, Con Ed and Local 1-2 have agreed that the necessary personnel will immediately return to work to prepare for the possibility of an approaching storm and will remain on the job for the duration of any emergency and any following repairs,” Cuomo announced just before noon last Thursday. “Con Ed and Local 1-2 will continue to work aggressively to reach a full contract agreement.”

Even as the strong line of thunderstorms neared the state, Con Edison and the union continued talking. By mid-afternoon, Cuomo announced that both sides had come to a tentative agreement on a new fouryear contract. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Both the labor union and Con Edison’s board of directors must approve the contract in order for it to be finalized.

Con Edison CEO Kevin Burke and Local 1-2 President Harry Farrell thanked the governor as well as other elected officials and government agencies for their assistance in ending the labor dispute. In separate statements, Con Edison and the union commented that the agreement reached was both “fair and equitable” to all parties involved.

The line of thunderstorms that blew through New York State last Thursday night did cause damage to upstate areas, but New York City was primarily spared the brunt of the weather system. Outages had been reported sporadically across Queens, and Con Edison announced last Friday that almost all of its 4,800 customers affected by the storm had their power restored.

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