By Gina Martinez
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and other elected officials joined over 100 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 members Tuesday morning in front of a Charter Communications location in Fresh Meadows to denounce the company’s use of out-of-state contractors.
According to Lancman, the hiring of out-of-state contractors is in violation of its franchise agreement with New York City. Lancman was joined by state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing), state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Jamaica), Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing), Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D- Flushing).
IBEW Local 3 represents 1,800 cable technicians who work for Charter, which merged with TimeWarner cable, the parent of NY 1, in 2016. Spectrum, is Charter’s brand name for cable operations in the city.
After operating without a contract since 2013, Local 3 went on strike in March after Charter proposed cutting workers’ health care and pension benefits.
Lancman contends that Article 17.4 of Charter Communications’ franchise agreement with New York City requires the company to use city vendors to the extent feasible. Since the strike began earlier this year, Charter contractors have been spotted working in New York City with license plates from California, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas and other states, he said.
Lancman said by using out-of-state contractors, Charter does not have to pay workers’ pension, benefits nor overtime.
“Charter Communications’ decision to use out-of-state contractors not only goes against its franchise agreement with the city, but also the values we hold as New Yorkers,” Lancman said. “We believe that work in New York City should be performed by New York City workers, like Local 3, who have the training and expertise to get the job done right. It is completely unacceptable for Charter to outsource these jobs to out-of-state workers, and the city must vigorously enforce the franchise agreement to hold Charter accountable.”
He added, “I am proud to stand in support of Local 3 and urge Charter to return to the negotiating table in good faith.”
According to a Charter spokesman, the company is using out-of-state contractors but is complying fully with the franchise mandate.
“As we told the NYC Council last month, Charter is meeting its franchise obligations with regard to the use of contractors,” the statement said. “The contractors serving our customers during the strike are overwhelmingly from New York City. However, the franchise clearly allows the company to use contractors from elsewhere, which we are doing. While we will not elaborate on our contingency planning, the use of a stringent vetting process and use of quality contractors is paramount so that we may best serve our customers.”
Local 3 members spoke out against Charter’s use of out-of-state contractors, noting the massive drawbacks that come with employing workers from outside New York City.
“Having out of state contractors working in NYC degrades the quality of craftsmanship in our system and are most likely causing more harm than good,” service technician Kevin Lee said. “They are willfully helping this company harm the techs, the customers, and the city.”
Shop steward Joe Mossa said Charter is compromising the quality of services for customers.
“Spectrum has hired out-of-state workers to perform subpar work with no background checks and that have minimal knowledge of our system,” he said.
The lawmakers also offered their support for Local 3 workers at the news conference. IBEW Local 3 workers have now been on strike for more than 80 days. The elected leaders urged the company to return to the negotiating table in good faith.
“Unions are an integral part of our city,” Rozic said. “Rather than listening to the needs of workers, Charter Communications has ignored and replaced them with out-of-state workers, going against the recent franchise agreement. I stand by our workers as they negotiate a solution that properly honors their hard work and contributions.”
Weprin denounced Charter and called on the company to contract city vendors, as already agreed upon.
“If you want to do business in the State of New York, you’re expected to follow through on any agreements made with the city and state,” he said. “The use of out-of-state contractors by Charter Communications is not only a violation of the franchise agreement agreed upon, but also a clear signal of Charter’s lack of commitment to New York.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart