The 1,800 Charter/Spectrum workers have been on strike since March 28. Members of International Electrical Workers Local 3 have been pounding the bricks for five months all over the New York metro area. They’re fighting to continue their medical and pension plans and to stop Spectrum from blaming them for its failure to update faulty equipment and for its inflated promises to customers.
To dramatize the strike, Local 3 has organized a march across the George Washington Bridge “against corporate greed and unfair labor practices” for Aug. 25. A strong showing there — particularly from the many unions that sent Local 3 solidarity messages (posted on NYCcabletruth.blogspot.com) — will go a long way to help Local 3 in its next negotiating session on Aug. 29.
When it comes to corporate greed, Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge is its poster child. Forbes magazine (“The Capitalist Tool”) identified Rutledge as the highest-paid CEO in 2016, with a total compensation package worth $98 million. His base salary is currently $2 million, but he receives millions in cash bonuses and millions in stock. (Aug. 11) Economist Les Leopold estimates the wage gap between today’s CEO and the average worker is 829 to 1. (Labor Press, Aug. 17)
Though Charter/Spectrum is offering the workers raises to “compensate,” it claims, for cuts in medical and pension benefits, Local 3 sees through that ruse. In the long run, higher wages won’t make up for benefit cuts, given soaring medical costs and switching from a pension plan to a 401(k), based on the Wall Street crapshoot known as the stock market. “It’s union busting — 101 — definitely,” cable tech Ayobam Ouedapo told Labor Press. Sociologist professor Chris Rhomberg agreed, saying: “The Spectrum workers are at the forefront of a battle to defend good jobs across the economy, including the right to bargain collectively. The company is benefitting from its franchise agreement with the city, and it should negotiate fairly with its workers. This is a fundamental crisis that we ignore at our peril.”
At spectrumstrike2017.com, in addition to learning more about the strike from a worker-made video, there are two ways to help the workers. Sign the petition addressed to New York City elected officials to “immediately pull Charter/Spectrum’s franchise agreement with the City of New York.” Then file a complaint against the company on the NY Public Service Commission website. For updates on the struggle, visit NYCcabletruth.blogspot.com.
Supreme Court to address attack on labor legislation
Pro-corporate interests and Trump administration lawyers are setting their sights on an important lifeline for workers. In October, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in NLRB v. Murphy’s Oil (an Arkansas-based transnational corporation) which, if the business side wins, could have a devastating effect on workers. The case seeks to strip us of our ability to navigate workplace disputes collectively in court. (Economic Policy Institute, Aug. 10)
This could have huge implications for the class struggle. The National Labor Relations Act codifies workers’ rights to act collectively, guaranteeing workers the right to stand together for “mutual aid and protection” when seeking to improve wages and working conditions, and that includes actions in court. However, corporate interests are arguing, bolstered by the business-friendly government tide, that workers should be forced to sign arbitration agreements. According to the EPI, that would force every single worker to hire their own private lawyer and navigate the legal process alone! If the Supreme Court rules against this case, it could have devastating effects for all U.S. workers. Stay tuned.
Teachers reach agreement with D.C. Public Schools
After five years of struggle, the Washington Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers Local 6) has finally gotten District of Columbia Public Schools to negotiate a tentative contract. In a statement on the local’s website, President Elizabeth A. Davis urged its 5,000 active members to vote yes on the deal, which includes 9 percent raises over the course of the three-year contract, upgraded benefits and more say in the workplace. The agreement is retroactive to last October. Not every victory was won, Davis admitted, but the local fought to secure a much-deserved raise before the upcoming school year. Last year, teachers took to the streets to protest stalled union negotiations under the school board’s failing misleadership. (Washington Post, Aug. 14) Lesson learned: Direct action and input from passionate unionists brought the gains this contract offers.