Spectrum Workers Are Still Out On Strike, The U.S.’s Longest - When Will the Company Listen?
(NEW YORK CITY) - The longest ongoing Strike in America today is happening in the media capital of the world. I t involves the people who install and repair the cables that bring the news to many of the most influential people in America. But after three long years, the Spectrum Workers of New York City are beginning to feel as though everyone has forgotten about them.
For those who soldier on, the fight has become much bigger than a contract dispute.
It is a fight that can only be won with a wholesale reimagining of public control over corporate power.
From the very beginning, the Strike has been a battle of attrition far more than it has been a negotiation.
By the time Charter acquired Time Warner Cable in 2016 and rebranded it as Spectrum, the company’s 1,800 Unionized Cable Technicians, Members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3, could sense trouble.
“Leading up to that time, we saw changes happening in the company, ‘where they went away from’ customer service,” says Troy Walcott, a 20-year Spectrum veteran and a Union Shop Steward. “They were ‘doing things for increasing stock prices, as opposed to customer service.’”
And the new owners struck a hostile pose towards the Union.
They also showed little interest in meaningful contract negotiations.
Workers say that Charter also began imposing stricter disciplinary rules and making changes in the metrics used to evaluate Employees and in internal training programs, making it harder to advance within the company.
They also seemed to show less interest in long-established Union-negotiated procedures.
“Their attitude was: Do what I say, and you can grieve it later,” says Chris Fasulo, a Spectrum Technician since 2010. “If we said, ‘I can’t drive this truck, it has a broken windshield,’ they’d say, ‘Do it, and you can file a grievance.’”
In March 2017, at odds over retirement and health benefits, the Union went on Strike.
The company proceeded to hire outside contractors to do the work of the Technicians and the two sides remained doggedly opposed.
After a year, the company launched a bid to decertify the Union, using a former supervisor who the Union says dropped into the role of a Technician in order to file a challenge, trying to convince Workers to give up on Union Representation entirely.
That decertification attempt, marked by claims of coercion and Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs), remains mired in the bureaucratic morass of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Meanwhile, the Strike drags on.
It is hard to be on Strike for a week.
It is hard to be on Strike for a month.
To be on Strike for three years is Superhuman.
As the calendar has turned, Spectrum Workers have exhausted Strike Funds, exhausted their savings and become desperate.
Some have crossed the picket lines and returned to their old jobs.
Estimates among Workers vary, but they say that close to half of the original Strikers are still out.
Those who hold the line do whatever they can to survive.
Troy Walcott, who does not have any kids to support, drives Uber, but as a Shop Steward, he hears all of the stories of suffering.
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