Urges Con Ed and Union
Bargain in Good Faith
by Robert M.
Reprint from the Times Digest, July 17, 2012
Because the dog days of summer
haven't really hit us yet, it is important that Con Edison
executives and its union leaders bargain in good faith to end the lockout
and ensure that all New Yorkers - from residents to small businesses and
large corporations - continue getting electricity.
We at BALCONY, the Business
and Labor Coalition of New York, are especially concerned with the
economic impact of this lockout. The recession and lagging economy have
shuttered many small businesses and left others hanging on precariously.
Any substantial power loss could
destroy many of these small businesses, which range from mom-and-pop
stores to corner bodegas to places where we get our shirts dry cleaned to
small restaurants where many of us enjoy an occasional meal.
There are tens of thousands of
small businesses across New York, many of them - 97,231 to be exact,
according to the Fiscal Policy Institute - are owned by
immigrants, hard-working people who came here in pursuit of the American
It would be a tragedy if any of
those businesses - or businesses owned by non-immigrants - would have to
shut their doors.
Restaurants and grocery stores for
example would not only lose customers but also thousands of dollars in
perishables like meat, fruit and vegetables. A couple of days of that
would force many to close.
As with any labor dispute, there
are two sides to the story and often the issues are complicated.
What is not in dispute is that Con
Ed locked out some 8,500 of its workers on July 1 and replaced them with
managers and retired supervisors.
The dispute focused on wages, health
care and pensions. Several days after the lockout began, Con Ed offered
workers a wage increase of more than 10% over four years, but remained
steadfast on its insistence that new hires move to a cash-balance pension
plan. It also wants to raise workers' contributions toward health
insurance from 17% to 24% over the four years.
Leaders of Local 1-2 of the Utility
Workers Union of America, which rejected the offer, strongly object
to the pension proposal, saying it would divide the union. After nearly two
weeks, the sides were still far apart.
Con Ed brought in 5,000 managers
and retired supervisors to replace the workers, saying they could deal
with any emergencies. The union claims the replacements are untrained and
note that at least three of the new workers were hurt in accidents in the
first few days of the lockout.
The lingering heat wave and
shortage of workers have also led to power reductions in certain
neighborhoods, angering residents and business owners who recently got
socked with an average 2.5% rate increase.
The summer heat is not going away
soon, raising the risk of brownouts or blackouts. We can only hope that
cooler heads prevail at the bargaining table.
Any substantial power loss would
not only affect small businesses, but could endanger the safety of all
Con Ed and its union must work to
reach a settlement as if lives depend on it - because, in fact, they do.
Robert M. Hayes is a Co-Chair of BALCONY and Senior Vice
President for Health Quality, Universal American Corp.