At Con-Ed Lockout Protest, Unions Embrace Class War

Categories: Con Ed, Unions

ConEd_Lockout_Protest.jpg
Marchers at yesterday's protest of the Con Edison lockout.
The Con Edison lockout of 8,500 workers is now well into its third week, and there doesn't appear to be any end is in sight.

Negotiations between the utility giant and members of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 resume today, but sources inside the negotiations say so recent talks haven't gone anywhere.

Con Ed locked out its union employees at the beginning of the month, when they wouldn't promise not to strike on short notice. Since then, it has been filling the gap by reassigning 5,000 managers to do the field maintenance necessary to keep the grid running through heat waves and brown-outs.

Locked-out workers tried to turn up the pressure yesterday with a noisy demonstration that began outside Con Ed's headquarters on Irving Place and proceeded to Union Square.

The demonstration was large, filing the northern section of Union Square. Utility workers were joined by members of the Service Employees International Union, the Transit Workers Union, the Communication Workers of America, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, the United Federation of Teachers, the Steamfitters Union, and the United Auto Workers, Occupy Wall Street, and others. (Full disclosure: Village Voice employees are also members of the UAW.)

The demonstration was also painfully noisy, as most of the union members were equipped with pump-action air horns that made vuvuzelas seem quiet and sonorous by comparison.

The mood in Union Square was optimistic and defiant. Utility workers said they were heartened to see the strong showing from other unions.

"We should be doing this more often," said Ricky Ward, a 45-year-old customer field representative. "Even when we get our jobs back. Organized labor -- we're all one."

That was certainly the message coming from union leadership. "This is not just about the utility workers," said Mike Langford, national president of the UWUA. ""It's about the entire labor movement, around the globe."

A member of the United Auto Workers, who didn't wish to give her name, said the Con Ed labor dispute feels like a landmark battle that will have implications for the rest of organized labor. "This is like Wisconsin," she said. "In this case it's the private-sector, but we're talking about a company that's turning a profit -- a billion dollars in profit. If they can win big concessions from workers in that situation, that's a real bad sign for the rest of us."

That sense of common purpose found expression yesterday in an aggressive and class-conscious vocabulary reminiscent of that of Occupy Wall Street.

"We have to do whatever it takes to put the 1 percent back in their place," AFL-CIO National President Richard Trumka told the crowd.

Local 1-2 President exhorted the crowd to press its demands through street protests. "We have to learn a lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King," he said. "We have to take it to the streets."

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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10 comments
GUEST
GUEST

THE MANAGER (Kevin Burke) LOCKED OUT 8,500 PEOPLE!?!?!? WHAT THE HEAK!! LET THEM BACK IN! LET THEM BACK IN! LET THEM BACK IN! 

Cassidy
Cassidy

The problem is that the typical voter doesn't actually pay attention to such details. They don't pay attention because they don't really care. How many of these union members bother marching for anything other than their own paychecks? Yet, when it finally comes down to their paychecks, it may be too late: apathy has allowed conditions to be created in which they have no chance of anything but a face-saving Pyrrhic Victory at best....

Cassidy
Cassidy

Yeah, and you know why Nazi Germany happened? Because the Allies, particular France, got GREEDY with German war reparations. Because the industrialists got GREEDY with paying a pittance. Don't like Nazis? Then don't stand for the conditions which allow their ilk to arise: corporate GREED and a destroyed middle-class.

Ron Elâm
Ron Elâm

This reminds me of the solidarity Nazi Germany civilians used to feel when attending rallies and swaying back and forth to their traditional forms of music. 

Rjkarma106
Rjkarma106

Thanks to the Village Voice for covering the rally.  The public has to be made aware that this is not only about Con Edison.  If they get away with phasing out pensions and affordable health care, no one but the 1% will be able to survive in the USA.  Con Edison has prove to be the major player in corporate greed. Please continue to cover the lockout & support the men & woman who keep this state in lights.

Bobbyv
Bobbyv

I'm a non biased human being , and have been reading a ton of facts since day one of lock out . I've never heard of a worse thing for a profitable company to do to its employees. Never ! Its so horrible . Fact ----- they only gave back the members health care due to the fact the union had organized a media event with the sick employees/family members. Wow that's what it takes . Burke should share the cell with Madoff , just another piece of s*hit thief .

Honeydippthis
Honeydippthis

I used to be proud to be a highly skilled employee that was trained by the highly known utility company, Consolidated Edison of New York! But now I'm appalled and ashamed to have given 12 years of service to a corporation that clearly didn't care about us by arrogantly calling a lockout. Con Ed's CEO, President and top executives are reaping the benefits of our hard work. What this company fail to realize that they opened a pandoras box. The blatant racism, favoritism and sexist behavior will all come tumbling out of the closet along with the real reason why they locked out 8,500 union employees... CORPORATE GREED!!! Con Ed can't continue to play GOLIATH because with roles reverse when up against thousands of DAVIDS!!! WE COMING FOR YOU CON EDISON!!!!

Guest
Guest

Hey Nick Pinto,        You may be just the guy to investigate the real story going on here, which is the conspicuous absence of comment, or action, by both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo. Why is that? Let's see, maybe it is because one of Cuomo's top advisors, Michael J. Del Giudice, serves on the Board of Directors at Con Ed. You know, one of the guys that accepted a 20% increase granted by the company while the labor force endures financial hardship because they have been locked out of their jobs. (Is that the sound of corporate greed I hear?) Or maybe it is because Con Ed is reported to have donated in excess of $200,000 to Cuomo's campaign fund. Given that this lockout is costing the State of New York 4 million dollars per week in unemployment, it seems like the Governor should have stepped in by now, the way David Paterson is reported to have stepped in to prevent such an action the last time the Con Ed contract was negotiated. And what about Mayor Mike? I know he has his hands full with all those 20 oz. sodas but it is time to get serious and at least weigh in on the situation. Oh wait, did I hear that he is friends with and a long time supporter of Con Ed CEO, Kevin Burke? Alas, foiled again!!! I just know that this needs to end. Maybe Trump is available?

jb4
jb4

?? What's a manger? What inspections? I dont believe were in kansas anymore toto.

billyagosdtino
billyagosdtino

Wow, you really sound non-biased... what a pin head you are!!

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