Corporate energy behemoth Con Edison locked out 8,500 workers of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America on June 30th. This is part of the continued attacks on the rights and benefits of working people across the country: public sector workers in Wisconsin, teachers, nurses, firemen across the country, longshore workers at Longview and the ports in the West Coast, industrial workers at Caterpillar and Cooper Tire, Verizon technicians, construction trades workers and many others. Wall Street and their political henchmen continue the brutal assault on collective bargaining and aim to claw back hard-fought benefits won through struggle over the past 60 years like pensions, wages and healthcare.
Local 1-2 workers (like Verizon workers and the transit workers) are a highly skilled workforce that operates the most elaborate electrical grid system in the country, perhaps in the world, and they have the power to defeat this corporate attack on their benefits.
The lockout, in the dead heat of summer, by Con Ed was a pre-emptive strike by management to try to blackmail the workers into accepting a humiliating contract. Con Ed management has lowered voltage operations and used non-union crews from Virginia, Alabama plus 5,000 managers to provide inadequate and dangerous services. Already three incidents of injuries to managers have been recorded.
Con Ed Gets Richer and the Workers Get Locked Out
Con Ed reported profits of just over $1 billion last year on nearly $13 billion in revenues. Profits were up slightly from 2010 and up from $879 million in 2009.
During the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Wall Street and Con Ed are making huge profits. That is because their plan is to make working people pay for the crisis they created. Workers face deeper debts, budget cuts, foreclosures and ever-growing inequality as the 1 percent is seeking to maximize their profits. We are faced with a vampire corporate agenda epitomized by Con Ed and Wall Street. The Con Ed workers' struggle, to be effective, demands a broad- based working class movement based on solidarity, determination and a bold strategy.
To make this an offensive struggle, the union must mobilize its members and make a direct appeal through community meetings in working class neighborhoods throughout the city. The union must reach out to other unions, Occupy Wall Street activists and local Occupy organizations to help build for mass borough and city-wide protests and build broad support. The struggle of the utility workers must be linked to the need to fight for decent services, wages, pensions and healthcare for all workers! This is the best way for the locked out workers to an echo among wider sections of the population and cut across the propaganda that the union is fighting “just for themselves.”
Con Ed’s irresponsible and dangerous tactic of using scabs must also be confronted. This can be done with effective mass picketing directly at depots, and jobsites, to stop management’s effort to pretend it's “business as usual.” Mass picketing and determined resistance, including civil disobedience actions by mass pickets, Occupiers and strike supporters was an effective strategy in the struggle of the longshoremen in Longview Washington earlier this year.
Honking horns by drivers to express their support of the locked out Local 1-2 workers is a fine gesture of support, but a serious discussion and call to all unions and workers to stand in solidarity with Local 1-2 is paramount to the fight back against corporate greed and Wall Street criminality.
As part of re-building a fighting workers movement, we also have to examine where politicians stand on these issues. It is time now for workers, those fighting to defend the 99%, and youth to put forward their own worker candidates who would defend the right to organize, union rights, workers’ benefits as well as striking or locked out workers. We can’t depend on corporate politicians (Democrat or Republican) who are in the back pocket of Wall Street and Con Ed.
The Local 1-2 workers struggle against Con Ed is another battle in a wider, international, class war. From Spain to Canada, workers and young people are fighting back against austerity, unemployment and abject poverty. The Local 1-2 workers lock out is a fight that affects every worker in New York City and nationally.
WE MUST UNITE & FIGHT BACK!
Join the picket lines! Call mass rallies to support Local 1-2 workers!
For solidarity and struggle to defend workers’ rights!