Recapping the Con Ed Strike (And What It Means for You)

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It’s a bad time to be a Con Ed employee. It’s also a bad time to need a Con Ed employee. The times are bad for basically everyone, presumably including Con Ed management, because in the middle of this heatwave, it would be ideal if the energy company was functioning at full capacity. Instead, more than 8,000 unionized Con Ed workers have been locked out after contract negotiations broke down early yesterday morning.

How did we get here?

The union contracts at Con Ed are renegotiated every four years. This go-around, the union’s primary issue is the company’s change in pension plans. The Times explains:

The workers have a traditional pension plan that promises a defined monthly benefit during retirement, but the company has been insisting on converting the pension to what is known as a cash balance plan, which tends to yield lower benefits to older workers. Con Ed stopped offering a defined-benefit pension to new hires in management positions more than a decade ago.

According union spokesperson John Melia, the issue is more than practical — it’s also symbolic. Historically, the defined-benefit plan was a sign of good faith, showing “that the company is earnest when it says it values its workers.” Any shift away from that is unacceptable.

On Friday, company representatives met with reps from the union. It didn’t go well. Con Ed said that if the union promised not to strike without 7 days notice, they’d continue the current contract. The union rejected that offer, but said they’d continue to work without a contract and continue negotiations. Con Ed wasn’t having it, and locked out the 8,000 employees — a move traditionally intended to preempt a strike (if it’s on the company’s terms, then it’s not a strike, etc.)

The union had thought the extreme heat would be a boon to their cause, since there’s no time they’re more in demand than during extreme conditions. But so far, they’ve been wrong. 5,000 Con Ed managers are currently standing in for the locked out workers, and the company is apparently confident that the “trained and experienced” subs are going to cut it.

The union, however, isn’t convinced. Melia told the Daily News:

“These men and women don’t have the knowledge or the expertise or the capability to keep the system operating long term. These guys don’t know how to go down into flaming manholes.”

Union president Harry Farrell had even harsher words in the Times:

“What they said last night to the people of New York was, ‘Drop dead.’ They’re asking retired supervisors to climb poles and work in manholes and stuff — I just don’t see it happening.”

If the union changes its mind, Con Ed would be more than happy to take the workers back, representatives told the Times. So far, though, no one is budging. Word is that the mayor’s office is in touch with both sides — Farrell expects they’ll put pressure on Con Ed to settle. In the meantime, the company is suspending meter reading, closing walk-in centers, and slowing down work on larger projects.

Putting the politics aside for a second though, let’s talk selfishly: practically speaking, what does this mean for those of us who depend on Con Ed?

So far — fingers crossed — it hasn’t had a huge impact on service. To avoid being billed for estimated gas and electric for however long meter readings are suspended, you can call Con Ed (1-800-75CONED) or visit coned.com on your would-be meter reading date. And since the walk-in centers are closed for the time being, all payments have to be made online or by phone. Con Ed has the details — though that pretty much covers it — on their site.

  • Anyone but Obama

    I was supporting the Con Ed strike but not any more. I work for a private contractor. It’s a crap job and doesn’t pay much, I just have to get papers from Con Ed for work my boss. He loses money if he doesn’t do the work and he’s not about to stop his jobs for Con Ed workers though he supports them.

    Crossing the picket line I was cursed at and called a scumbag. When I said that I would get fired if I didn’t do it, they said I suck and some other nice things. As I said, I supported them but now I couldn’t care less if they ever work again.

    These guys don’t care about me, only themselves. They actually expect me to lose my job to support their union demands. Wow, is that selfish or what?

    You guys should think about the future. You’re going to have to work for bosses and with other people when this is all done, so name calling isn’t the brightest thing to do.

    Like I said, go eff yourselves now. You don’t care about my job so I sure don’t care about yours.

  • www.Brooklynblueblood.com

    @votersofny:disqus I’m sorry they did that. I am a member of local 1-2 and we are angry and upset. I’m not saying what happened to you was right but there is a reason for it. It’s funny contractors and lower tier management have to cross the front lines and face the heat from union but the really guilty ones (Kevin Burke and executive board have a gated parking in the back of 4 Irving). I wish we could focus on those to blame rather than the working class people that try to take up the slack because of our absence. 
    On another note there have already been injuries to management trying to fill positions they have no experience with and there are pictures online showing their lack of expertise and the resulting endangerment of the public.   http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6lnbhQehr1ra8hyzo1_1280.jpg The reality is the company is making record profits, shares of the stock are near an all time high and the company wants to cut our benefits package while they give themselves 20 percent raises and stock packages. 

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