Local Union #3 members protest in front of a Queens Spectrum store. Photo by Ariel Hernandez
BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Local Union #3, which represents approximately 1,800 Charter Communications and Spectrum employees in New York and New Jersey, held a protest in front of a Spectrum store in Astoria on Friday. The union has been on strike since March 28 on the grounds that its workers have not had a contract since their previous one under Time Warner Cable expired in 2013.
According to Derek Jordan, a spokesman for Local #3, both Time Warner Cable and Charter refused to bargain with the union’s members for more than two years.
“We’re going to strike until we get the contract we deserve,” Jordan said.
In addition to working under an expired contract, the union is on strike after Charter/Spectrum allegedly promised its customers faster internet speed without the equipment to make this possible. And the union alleges that the company is not providing proper training or promotions to its technicians and using subcontractors from other states in violation of the New York City Franchise Agreement.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a lawsuit on Feb. 1 that alleged that Spectrum-TWC has been telling its customers since January 2012 that if they use the company’s internet service, they’d get a fast, reliable connection from anywhere in their home. However, the attorney general’s office conducted a 16-month investigation and found that Spectrum-TWC subscribers were getting short-changed on both speed and reliability.
Jordan said that if a technician responds to a service call at a customer’s home and fixes the internet connection and the customer calls back the following day saying that the problem still persists, Charter/Spectrum disciplines its technicians by prohibiting their progression within the company.
“If a tech gets disciplined over a repeat service call, [Charter/Spectrum] holds you back,” Jordan said.
But a spokesman for Spectrum defended the cable provider’s compensation for its workers.
“Spectrum is dedicated to providing great service to our customers and investing in our workforce is a critical part of how we do that,” Spokesman John Bonomo said. “This is why Spectrum is offering our field technicians a pay increase larger than the union has demanded, along with competitive and robust health care and retirement benefits. We believe this greater compensation to be more beneficial to our employees and allows us to grow a well-paid, highly-skilled workforce for the benefit of our customers.”
Queens elected officials have thrown their support behind the union. Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) wrote a joint letter to the CEO of Charter Communications, Thomas Rutledge, last week requesting that the company negotiate with Local #3 on a new contract that does not undermine the workers’ healthcare, retirement and job security.
“It has been reported that Charter has proposed eliminating pension contributions, annuity/HRA contributions, overtime pay for Saturday and Sunday work and the company’s 401K.” the letter read.
On Friday, Lancman dropped by the Spectrum strike to listen to the workers and show support.
“I support them and their effort to keep their jobs with good wages and, most importantly right now, good benefits and they need to know that their elected representatives care about them.”