New York Local 3 members picketed outside a Charter/Spectrum facility in Queens on June 27. They have been on strike against the company for more than three months.  

Three months into their strike against Charter/Spectrum, and even with public support from many local politicians and surveys that show the company is one of the most disliked in the country, New York Local 3 members find themselves in much the same position as they were in late March.

Charter/Spectrum CEO Tom Rutledge, who was paid $98 million last year, making him the highest-paid CEO in the United States. Charter/Spectrum refuses to bargain in good faith with New York Local 3 for a new contract.
Photo provided by AdvertisingWeek via Flickr/Creative Commons

“Nothing changes,” Local 3 business representative Derek Jordan said. “The members are frustrated.”

Frustrated, but they remain united, he said. Striking members received payments from Local 3’s strike fund for seven weeks and now are receiving unemployment benefits in New York and New Jersey. Some are taking part-time jobs, he said.

But they remain committed to reaching a fair agreement for their families as the strike enters its fourth month.

“They understand if you go back to work now, you’re going back on their terms,” Jordan said. “You could go back and be laid off in a few weeks because there would no job protection. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

About 1,800 Local 3 members went on strike March 28 against Charter/Spectrum, which became the city’s dominant cable provider when its merger with Time Warner Cable was approved last year. There have been no talks since June 13 and none are scheduled, Jordan said, even with the help of a federal mediator.

That’s because Charter/Spectrum has refused to move off its initial proposals, even though CEO Tom Rutledge was paid $98 million last year, more than any other CEO in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Company officials emphasized publicly they are offering workers a raise, but Local 3 officials said it won’t come close to offsetting proposed cuts in pensions, 401(k) plans, health benefits, paid holidays, accrued sick time and contributions to an education trust fund that allowed employees and their spouses to attend college. The company also would like to contract out some work done previously by Local 3 members.

“Spectrum has hired out-of-state workers to perform subpar work with no background checks that have minimal knowledge of our system,” Local 3 steward Joe Mossa told the Queens Times Ledger.

Mossa made those comments while he and other Local 3 members picketed in front of a Charter/Spectrum office on June 27 along with several New York City politicians, including Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who said Charter/Spectrum is violating a provision of its franchise agreement with the city that calls for it to use New York City vendors.

New York Assemblyman Rory Lancman tells Local 3 members during a rally on June 27 that he thinks Comcast/Spectrum Is violating the terms of its franchise agreement with the city.

Lancman said contractors being used by Charter have been spotted with license plates from California, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas and other states, according to the Times Ledger. He was the latest in a series of politicians to criticize Charter/Spectrum and urge it to negotiate fairly with Local 3, a list that includes Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James.

“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 the expertise to get the job done right.”

About 60,000 Charter/Spectrum customers in Queens were left without service on June 26. Company officials said it was due to vandalism, but they were criticized for failing to inform customers for more than 12 hours and initially saying in a tweet the disruption was caused by normal maintenance.

“No information from @Spectrum to customers for 12+ hours (since outage began at 2 AM) is unacceptable,” Queens Borough President Melina Katz wrote in a tweet, according to the New York Daily News.

“We don’t condone this at all,” Jordan said. “We don’t know anything about what actually happened.”

Charter/Spectrum is the second-largest pay-TV company in the country after Comcast. Jordan said he and other Local 3 members suspect it wants to make its New York City operations more like other franchises around the country without union representation.

That’s why it’s shown little interest in negotiating so far, he said.

“Our take is it’s union busting,” Jordan said.