When United Steelworkers Miners Local 5114 ratified a contract agreement Jan. 6 with the Hecla Mining Company, ending a 1,029-day strike at the Lucky Friday mine in Idaho, it left International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 with a distinction it would prefer not to have: its walkout by 1,800 electricians at Charter/Spectrum is now the longest ongoing strike in America.
The latter walkout began March 28, 2017, 15 days after the Lucky Friday job action began, meaning that on Jan. 22 the Local 3 strike will have lasted longer, with no end in sight.
Someone familiar with the negotiations with Charter/Spectrum—a giant cable provider which is the parent company of NY1—told us late last year that the union believed it had virtually sewed up a deal 12 months ago, only to have management walk away to await the outcome of a decertification vote initiated by a demoted former manager, Bruce Carberry, who conveniently became eligible to join the union a few months before he filed a petition claiming Local 3 failed to provide proper representation.
The talks had been moved along by a pressure campaign whose main players included the state and city chapters of the AFL-CIO, Governor Cuomo, and elected officials including Mayor de Blasio who refused to appear on NY1 news programs because it would have required them to cross the picket line mounted by Local 3. After the picket line came down outside NY1’s Chelsea headquarters as an agreement seemed imminent, it removed political pressure on Charter/Spectrum. Peter Ward, president of the Hotel Trades Council, had served as a mediator in the dispute, and management’s bid to end the pension plan for its electricians had reportedly ended in a compromise under which Local 3 agreed that future hires would be placed in a 401(k) program while those already on the job would retain their pension rights.
Despite that concession, Charter/Spectrum opted to await the results of the decertification attempt. It got a major break last August when National Labor Relations Board Regional Director John J. Walsh ruled that some strikers had been off the job for so long that their votes would not count, but that replacement workers hired after the job action began would have their ballots tallied. He delayed the count because of union allegations that Charter/Spectrum improperly interfered with the election that it said were supported by an audio recording of a meeting management called with employees shortly before the vote began in which workers were allegedly promised raises and fringe-benefit upgrades if they voted to decertify and threatened with retaliation if they chose to remain under Local 3’s banner.
Mr. Walsh has said that if the recording could be verified, it might “warrant setting aside the results of the election” if it went in favor of decertification.
In noting Jan. 13 that the walkout at Charter/Spectrum was now the longest ongoing one in the U.S., Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erikson said in a statement, “Spectrum will stop at nothing to bust our union so they can lay off hundreds of workers and leave their families out in the cold for another long winter and beyond…many of our hardworking members have been forced to accept public assistance while Spectrum rakes in hundred-million-dollars profits. Spectrum’s actions are despicable—they are waging a war against workers, but we will never stop fighting back.”
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It wasn’t mentioned in the New York Times story about Judith “Judge Judy” Sheindlin joining Michael Bloomberg on the campaign trail, but what we found most intriguing was that it put her on opposite sides of the political divide from Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Giuliani was said to have become a frequent dinner companion of Judge Judy and her husband, former Bronx Criminal Court Judge Gerald Sheindlin, after he acquitted rogue cop Francis Livoti 24 years ago in the death of Anthony Baez on a Bronx street.
Clearly Rudy and Judy have parted company on their taste in presidential candidates.
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