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Vol. 81/No. 36      October 2, 2017

(front page)

1000s march to back workers in 6-month-long Spectrum strike

NEW YORK — Thousands of workers turned out Sept. 18 for a march and rally in support of 1,800 members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 who have been on strike against deep concession demands from cable giant Charter Communications/Spectrum for nearly six months. Their last contract expired more than four years ago.

The company says they’re offering a big pay raise,” said Gavin Cabrera. “But then they say that we should have to pay for our medical insurance and make our own payments to the pension fund. And they want to get rid of seniority. They’re not even willing to negotiate at this point. They just want to bust the union.”

Cabrera said that the company had sent out letters to the striking workers saying they could return to work, but they wouldn’t be guaranteed their old jobs, which have been taken by new hires. He added that over the past months some union members had crossed the picket line at the Brooklyn depot where he works.

Charter purchased Time Warner Cable in 2015 and renamed it Spectrum. The company raked in some $3.5 billion in profits last year.

Many other unionists turned out, including hundreds of IBEW electricians and construction workers, hotel workers, laborers, sanitation workers, teachers, retail workers and nurses. The protest began with a rally in Brooklyn, then marched over the Brooklyn Bridge and ended with a rally in Lower Manhattan. Speakers included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Marcel Feliu, a member of the Laborers International Union of North America, bumped into the rally when he got off his job building scaffolding. “I stopped right away to show my support,” he said. In dangerous work like I do, the unions are very important. That’s why we need to organize all the workers who don’t have unions.”

“Whatever the outcome of this fight, I will be much better at reaching out to other workers who are on strike,” said Michael Traisi, a picket captain on Staten Island. “I’ve always voiced support for other unions, but now I realize you need to organize to help.”

Traisi also explained how the union is “trying to reach out to some of the new people Spectrum has hired to cross our picket lines. They’ve been told a lot of lies about us.”

Errol Lawrence, a shop steward in Woodside, Queens, worked at Verizon for many years. “I left because they had too many strikes,” he said laughing. “What we need is a major labor movement.
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