By Gina Martinez
Queens politicians are standing up for a Flushing-based union.
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) wrote a letter to Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge, demanding Charter negotiate fairly with Local Union #3 International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers.
The union went on strike March 28, saying it wanted a new contract that did not undermine members’ health care, retirement and security. The more than 1,800 union workers had been working without a contract since 2013. Charter has proposed eliminating crucial benefits like pension contributions, overtime pay on weekends and the company’s 401k, according to local officials.
Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable last year, making it the second largest Internet provider in New York, with 2.5 million subscribers. The state attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit against Spectrum,Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, for defrauding customers by failing to deliver promised Internet speeds. The AG’s office concluded that executives knew that networks were incapable of delivering speeds promised to subscribers.
According to the elected officials, Charter placed the blame on Local 3 technicians, even disciplining technicians over repeat service calls to customers who were unable to get Internet speeds they paid for.
Officials and IBEW Local 3 members are also upset about Charter plans for a wage increase while also cutting health benefits, retirement contributions, and job security. In the letter, officials called this wage increase a “red herring” to distract from the cuts.
“We urge you to return to the bargaining table with a new approach,” they wrote, “one that will lead to a speedy and fair resolution of the contract dispute. You must protect the workers that make your company function and the New York consumers who rely on your service with as much fervor as you protect your bottom line. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.”
A spokesman for Charter Communications released a statement claiming that the pay increase is more beneficial for employees.
“Spectrum is dedicated to providing great service to our customers and investing in our workforce is a critical part of how we do that,” a spokesman said. “This is why Spectrum is offering our field technicians a pay increase larger than the union has demanded, along with competitive and robust health care and retirement benefits. We believe this greater compensation to be more beneficial to our employees and allows us to grow a well-paid, highly skilled workforce for the benefit of our customers.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart