Utility Union Strikes Amid Heat Wave

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


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Despite the presence of a sweltering heat wave raising demands on New York’s power grid, power utility Consolidated Edison Inc. and its unionized workforce failed to reach a contract agreement. After 10 straight days of talks, extending past Sunday night’s midnight deadline, negotiations broke down. Con Ed asked the union to extend the talks for an additional two weeks. The union, which had threatened to strike, refused. As a result, the company told its 8,500 union employees not to report for work today.

“Both sides are far apart,” said Con Ed spokesman Mike Clendenon. “We asked the union to extend the talks for two weeks but they refused. We can’t operate the system reliably for customers if the union can still call a strike at a moment’s notice,” he added. John Melia, a spokesman for the Utilities Workers Union of America (UWUA) characterized the move as a lockout. “ConEd took the extreme measure of locking out its unionized workforce putting the city of New York and Westchester county in peril during a heat wave,” he contended.

Mr. Melia also said the union was willing to continue working while negotiations continued. Con Ed countered that the union rejected an offer to continue negotiating under the condition that both sides provide seven days “notice of a strike or work stoppage.” “Without a contract and the assurance that the union leadership would not call a strike without notice,” the utility said, Con Ed “would not have been able to assure customers of reliable service.” Mr. Melia was asked if Con Ed gave the union any indication when negotiations might resume. “None whatsoever. They stood up and kicked us out,” he replied. Con Ed again countered that its offer to extend the current contract while negotiations continued remained on the table.

Unsurprisingly, the disagreement centered around wages, pensions, and health care benefits. The largest sticking point is pensions. Union workers currently have a defined benefit plan. According to Investopedia, that is an employer-sponsored retirement plan where employee benefits are sorted out based on a formula using factors such as salary history and duration of employment. Investment risk and portfolio management are entirely under the control of the company. The company wants to phase out that system and put workers in a cash balance plan. In this plan, an employer credits a participant’s account with a set percentage of his or her yearly compensation plus interest charges. Unlike the regular defined-benefit plan, the cash balance plan is maintained on an individual account basis. The latter plan tends to yield lower benefits to older workers, according to the New York Times.

Con Ed phased in a cash balance plan for its management hires over a decade ago, but the union is refusing to accept the same conditions for its workforce. “There’s a feeling that the defined-benefit plan is something that shows that the company is earnest when it says it values its workers,” said Mr. Melia. Again, the company countered, saying it “negotiators have presented numerous proposals to the union leadership to address long-term wage-and-benefit issues, in an effort to meet the needs of employees while respecting the cost concerns of customers.”

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  • kafir4life

    I recently moved from the union cesspool of NY, to a right to work state. I received an IMMEDIATE 300/week raise just because of the change of income taxes and property taxes. I avoid union made goods and services whenever possible, as utilizing goods and services from union controlled entities is like giving money to President Stinky (-bo) and his disgusting minions.
    I was watching the president's owner and master, Bill Maher, the other nite, and it brought up the question: Does anybody know what the heck Stinks did to Moochelle to make TWO babies fall out???

    • Fred Dawes

      Obama will declare total justice and declare slavery back for whites, after all we need obama justice and he can rewrite all of the world history to show he is our one and only globalsis God or globalists puppet god.

    • Amused

      Are you sure you didn't get kicked out kafir4life ? Judging by your juveniole mouth , I'd say IF you had a job in NYC , you got sacked . Good stay out of NY , there are already too many rodents there , you're just one less .

  • Amused

    Typical anti-union Southern Elitist rag article by Alhert . Just more redmeat to be thrown to the bayingbarking sycophants .
    Every contract has a beginning and end …..so now here comes the typical conservative spin . First off , I lived in NYC and Con ED as it was called at the tme NEVER EVER had ANY concern about the " costs to customers " PERIOD . When UNIONS finally do strike it is almost always due to intransience of Company TRAINED and INSTRUCTED "negociators " . And also being a union member in every job I've ever worked , talks are usually opened 2-3 months before the contract ends .The Companies universal position is to reject everything at the beginning . Then comes the bullshiiit , "we're offering them this or that and look , they turned it down , those EVI UNIONS . Well you either KNOW NOTHING of these things ALHERT , or you are being purposefully IGNORANT .
    All the Company has to do if they are REALLY concerned for the people in the "heat wave " is to go to arbitration and immediately both sides must resume under the existing contract .

    • reader

      Oh, so amused is a union thug, which is no different from a mobster in many cases. Read this again:

      "All the Company has to do if they are REALLY concerned for the people in the "heat wave " is to go to arbitration"

      Amused is not particularly concerned about the heat wave. Just give her what she wants, or you're gonna get hurt.

    • Kevin

      Now the posts of Amused make sense to me. Union goon. Got it.

      • Amused

        Well two more confirmed brainwashed idiots are spouting theiur ignorance . Of course the company is innocent here right ? x Gee the Great Ronlad Reagan used binding arbitration to settle or atleast defer effects of such labor/management disagreements , so all you PHONY CONSERVATIVES are full of it .
        This simply shows that most of the critics here don't understand the issues involved in changing pension arrangments especially with workers who have 15 ,20 ,25 yearsor more invested with the Company .. It seems you dummies dont know what arbitration is either , it means everyone continues without a contract for a specified time , with no interuptions in services ,but all you guys know is how to parrot menmes from you also ignorant mentors like Arnold here . Too bad Arnold doesn't know what he 's talking about either .
        Another case of the blind ;leading the blind , and everyone should buy your bullsheeet story .

    • Rifleman

      Lol, "Southern elitist," that's a new one. Why am I not surprised you're a union puke?

      • Amused

        you are ignorant Rifleman , it's not a new one , in fact it is the ideology most conservatives ascribe to . it's been around since before the civil War Why am I not surprised you are ignorant of the ideology you blindly embrace ? Of course you are anti-union , it goes with the ideology , whic proves you are nothing more than a parrot .

        • Amused

          I'll explain the century old struggle between Yankee Elitists and Southern Elitists their ideologies , ethos and origins one day to you rifleman , when and /IF your brain becomnes more fully developed . At present it must be dumbed down to your intellectuall level . Until then continue to puke all over your livingroom .

    • kafir4life

      That's amusing, Amused! You've never had the skill set necessary to negotiate for yourself, and had to have the group thuggery of unions to keep your job. That is terribly amusing.

    • aharris

      My husband works on the company side with a union and had a brush with your so-called benevolent union stuff. The union ain't all sunshine and daisies. The tradition is that every other negotiation one side gives concessions, and it was the union who broke that tradition. And funny how the strike resulted in the company staff outperforming the union across the board while the ujnion workers were picketing, stats that still get brought out for contract negotiations to this day.

      Unions IME don't like to give and take; they prefer it all to be take with no give.

      • Amused

        nice anectdotal bullsheet story aharris , I guess you believe every thing your husband says , even the company line he tows . LOL….keep'm dumb barefoot and pregnant eh ?

  • kbs55

    Never let a disaster go to waste, everything is a reason to extort more money. All Unions need to be banned.

    • Amused

      Please ! DO HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR THAT ….K ?

      • kafir4life

        Unions are dying. Good riddence.
        Hey….Amused…..A serious question. If companies weren't forced to deduct union dues from employees paychecks, and insead had to bill their members much like a utility bill, what do you suppose would happen to:
        A) Union dues intake
        B) Members having more money to spend
        C) Unions going out of business without forced customers

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    Con Ed workers strike? Permanent cut to their benefits.

    There will be a backlash to this outrage.

    Unions will further be seen as greedy, selfish, thugs – operating a Protection Racket.

  • Amused

    The Company strategy is to make the union fight just to get BACK to the middle ,and at that point hope the pressure of public opinion will break the strike . The Company's bottom line is ALWAYS known by the negociators from the getco , and the Company decides how far the strike will go before they decide to bargain REASONABLY and in GOOD FAITH .And as I said Arbitration is alwatys an option , and if Mr.Alhert didn't know this , the Verizon contract expired a year ago , soi far no strike , the UNION is working ithout a contract until binding arbitration or an agreement between both sides is reached
    SO BIG ARNY quit trying to villify your fellow working AMERICANS , who in this case [and the case of Verizon ] are called upon to work holidays swing shifts ,fluctuating schedules , forced overtime on a day by day basis , a miultitude of sacrifices to family and social life , Emergency scheduling 7a-7p 13 days straight with the 14th off , something I doubt you would be willing to do even in your youth .

    • reader

      so, show'em – quit and go working for Starbucks. you're looking for sympathy in the wrong place. you thugs have pissed off even vanila mush in Wisconsine already – good job!

      • Amused

        Sympathy ? Are you kidding ? Who in the hell needs your sympathy , just redressing ignorant anti-union idiots that 's all . Screw your sympathy . My sympathy is reserved for the hopelessly ignorant , like yourself reader .

        • reader

          Thank you, but, no, thank you. Union sympathy is as much of oxymoron as the government healthcare: both hurt the subjects. Sympathise with your fellow thugs. And don't confuse being brain-washed by union bosses with the knowledge of any kind.

          • Amused

            " :knowledge " lol…an alien word to an ignoramus like you . you're a brainwashed parrot …that about all . All you know is what is poured into your empty head .

  • Amused

    So stop sucking up Arnold , to the Southern Elitist mentality which uses of all things The Bible , to justify screwing employees , using them as fodder , abusing the spirit of the contracts they agree to , in the name of their " god given right " to maximize profits beyond the limits of any social responsibility . Yea you heard that right ..social responsibility , which is the same as the SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY that our idiots in Washington have to quit the B.S. and get down to the buisiness of draling with the problems THEY THEMSELVES have created . And YEA ! Compromise is on the menu , because this " My Way or the Highway " B.S. , conservatives have engaged in , has got to go . No bill or legislation nor amendment in this country has EVER been resolved with out some form of compromise , so save all your super patriot 'founding fathers " crap .They never faced the isssues we have today . If thery did and solved them all once and for all , thenm we wouldn't have to pay 500 or so idiots well over 200k a year and give them guaranteed sumptious retirement packages , and the finest medial insurance in the country.

    • kafir4life

      Wow! Towards the end there I was surprised you picking on the union bosses, their pay, retirement and medical benefits. Do they know you talk that way? What's your local?

  • Amused

    H&R , you've already proven yourself a moron , especially in the amount of your posts the ADMIN . has deleted on you .

  • warpmine

    After the public union debacle nationwide I'm sure that has a lot to do with the mistrust of labor unions. The corruption runs deep in the bowels of the union hierarchy for years and with that being said, I really don't like them as they always seem to be one of the driving forces amongst the increases in costs to the consumer.

    Both sides are rarely innocent with both using their talking points to one up the other. Something needs to be done in terms of pensions and who pays for them. In doing a lockout, ConEd is likely forcing the issue by essentially saying our way or the highway telling the employees to see how long you can go without the money.

    With any luck the company will reverse itself and reopen negotiations even while working without the contract. Sorry for your plight pray that it won't be to long before negotiations lead to a resolution. I strongly suggest all look through the others eyes and with impartiality.

  • Amused

    Now there's some rarefied air ….objectivity .Yes you are correct in ascertaining that corruption runs deep in SOME unions ….One of the three I've worked in , but it also runs deepo in every other strata of US society from the POTUS right down to the garden variety shoplifter . Corporations being no exception .As for costs to the consumer ? I would challenge you to parse the reasons ranging from poor management , to poor productivity and come up with a definitive answer . And all one need do is look at the Telecoms and Catv industries with their mysterious "govt charges and fees ,national and interstate etc blah blah blah " …..constantly changing "deals " deceptive bundling and the like , workers pensions and productivity hardly the cause by any stretch . And the FACT , that groups like ALEC have bought legislation that restricts any regulatory boiundries be laid down . Blaming the Unions or Unionism itself is just a cop out usually employed by those who truly dont know any better .

  • Amused

    Everty Company /Union Contract has an end date , some in the summer some in the winter , New Yorks heat waves usually occur in the last week of July – 3rd week of August , as I've worked atleast 18 summers there and lived thru 27 before relocating . This violin can be played by either side to it's advantage . Arnolds article is nothing more than a cheap shot , and most of the sycophant ramblings agreeing with him are out of utter ignorance .

  • http://twitter.com/J21ED @J21ED

    City Comptroller John C. Liu stated the following on the ConEd contract dispute:__“It is imperative that ConEd negotiate in fairness and good faith. It doesn’t appear to be good-faith bargaining when a company locks out its employees in the dark of night. ConEd’s CEO has raked in $24.8 million over the last five years, yet the company is pushing for its workers to pay far more for health insurance and give up their current defined-benefit pensions. More than 3 million customers depend on ConEd for electricity, and all efforts must be made to prevent any service disruptions during the summer heat wave. Cooler heads must prevail – or New York City could swelter.”_

  • Amused

    It's NEVER good faith and fairnes by which Compasnies approach contract negotiations , Company negociators and plans are discussedd months in advance of the start of negotiations .From that point it is determined how much the company can take back before triggering a strike . The utilies are expert at these tactics , and play on public opinion .The very action of a "lockout " is an indicator that a company is NOT about to negociate in good faith . Something that the anti-union parrot numbskulls here are oblivious to . But what else can be expected from the syciphants of big buisiness which is another trademark of conservative mindset .

  • Asher

    Another cohersive measure to bring the people to their knees..all about Control.

  • Amused

    Conservatives have been on their knees before big corporations for years , Union people have long been past groveling before elitists and their money .
    Go out and by some sturdy knee pads chump .