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Con Ed Engages in Surface Bargaining; Union Square Labor Rally Draws Thousands
By Liza Béar
NEW YORK, JULY 19. 2012--It’s been a busy week for the locked out Con Ed workers, with 24/7 rotating protests at the 4 Irving Place picket line and uptown in front of CEO Kevin Burke’s 455 East 86th Manhattan residence, culminating in a formidable and vociferous show of support from several thousand members of at least a dozen other unions in a solidarity labor rally at Union Square.
Creative handmade cardboard signs now proliferate in addition to the glossy official Union red printed mainstays.
According to Gary Magliari, a UWUA Local 1-2 shop steward interviewed at the picket line, the lock out was due not to failed negotiations, as Con Ed claims, but was a deliberate act, a strategic move that was planned years in advance of the union's contract running out on July 1. Stripping away union benefits, says Magliari, is part of Con Ed's move towards needed consolidation prior to selling the company, to make it more attractive to a buyer without a freighted 4-year union contract. http://youtu.be/1jptOdNQZ0c
“What is going in their meetings is an endless barrage of pie charts, statistics and power point presentations that describe Con Edison’s new world order…” said Magliari quoting a source close to the talks. ” It is absolutely surreal.”
On Saturday July 14 at 6:30pm Local 1-2 texted an announcement from its president Harry Farrell that medical benefits had been reinstated retroactively for all 8500 locked out Con Ed employees. This is their only concession so far.
But pressure to end the lock-out , believed by the union to be the largest in US history, and to provide a fair contract is mounting both from the labor movement and public officials.