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, who contended that union had a contract from 2013 until it expired on March 31, defended the cable provider’s compensation for its workers.
“We are disappointed that the New York Attorney General chose to file this lawsuit regarding Time Warner Cable’s broadband speed advertisements that occurred prior to Charter’s merger,” Spokesman John Bonomo said. “Charter made significant commitments to New York State as part of our merger with Time Warner Cable in areas of network investment, broadband deployment and offerings, customer service and jobs. In addition, Charter was among the highest rated broadband providers in the 2016 FCC Broadband Report. Charter has already made substantial investments in the interest of upgrading the Time Warner Cable systems and delivering the best possible experience to customers. We will continue to invest in our business and deliver the highest quality services to our customers while we defend against these allegations involving Time Warner Cable practices.”
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.
“In the midst of this, Charter is trying to make workers pay for the company’s lies and misrepresentations,” the letter read. “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.”
On Friday, Lancman dropped by the Spectrum strike in Astoria to listen to the workers and show support.
“Local 3 is headquartered in my district,” Lancman said. “The neighborhood of Electchester was built by the electrical workers union and still houses many electricians and I really feel for the hardship that these guys are enduring. They don’t want to be out on strike, they don’t want to not get paid. It’s very stressful and anxious for them. But 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.”