Nearly six years ago, around 1800 cable technicians based in the New York City area went on strike against Charter-Spectrum, who they accused of union-busting in the years following Charter Communications’ acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
Rallies were held; politicians stopped by. As the months and years wore on, workers were faced with less-than-ideal options to sustain themselves and their families.
Some strikers drove part-time for Uber to make ends meet, or chose to temporarily or permanently switch to another division or service sector in their union — leaving workers who earned $35 an hour as experienced technicians earning just $18 an hour in their new entry-level roles, or waiting in long lines for few available positions in better-paying electrical specialty areas.
Then, this summer, after more than five years on strike against Spectrum, remaining strikers suddenly heard that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3, their union, had officially ended the strike and reached a settlement with Charter-Spectrum.
Workers also learned that Local 3 had received $100 million or more from the cable giant that would be put into one or more IBEW Local 3 pension funds.
Now, a group of former strikers are suing their union over its representation during this fight with Spectrum, and over what exactly happens to that money.
Tracey Harris, the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff and a long-term Spectrum striker, explained in an interview that she and her fellow workers were “irate” when they saw the chips fall (so to speak) as they have done after so many years of struggle.
“After five years, you would hope that some (monetary) resolve would come. We were also really upset that they didn’t let us know firsthand; some people got a letter, but a lot of us found out on Facebook.”
Back in the mid 2010s, when Charter-Spectrum absorbed Time Warner Cable, “They wanted to dismantle the union solely because they only had two places that were unionized: Hawaii and NYC.”
According to Harris and other former Spectrum technicians, the company then proceeded to try to break up its unionized division “in a place where most people wouldn’t even fathom they’d try it: here in New York.”
“This is New York City; this is a union town,” Harris added. “How is it that Local 3 allowed them to come in and bust a union?”
IBEW Local 3 was reached out to for comment, which will be included here if and when available.