As New York Heats Up, ConEd Bosses and Workers Return to the Table


Maybe they can be friends after all.

Last week, as the heat wave began to swallow New York whole, we reported on the failed negotiations that left 8,500 ConEd workers unemployed. It was a labor-corporate disconnection, as the pension plan proposed by the top dogs at the electrical titan was met with fierce opposition by the Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America. Just as the temperatures started soaring, the people in charge of keeping our A/C’s running were left high and dry.

But today, with a weather report that is predicting nearly 100 degrees for New Yorkers to bare, the two parties are back at the bargaining table to settle the dispute. The talks began on Thursday, with federal mediators swooping in to save the day; negotiations continued into late last night and will resume this afternoon.
However, it seems as if the sides remain in disagreement, even as New York slowly bakes alive.

On Thursday, almost half of the 8,500 employees took to the streets on Irving Place, repeating chants of “If we go out, the lights go out!” This came a day after several neighborhoods in Brooklyn were forced to reduce voltage by 5 percent, with crews made up of ConEd managers – the replacement force that came about after the failed talks last week – rushing around to fix downed lines and restore the grid.

With the high temperatures continuing into the weekend, the electrical grid is sure to face even deeper problems as almost every New Yorker bumps the fan and Netflix. With this situation in mind, a nuclear option factor is added to the negotiations – in other words, if they don’t solve the problems, the City’s power sources will continue to burn. This scenario was repeated by the ConEd spokesman, Michael Clendendin, who said “our immediate priority is getting our employees back to work.” Except a deadline has its consequences, as the one downside of rushed negotiations is a drained resulting contract.
But who knows how long it will take for the two parties to come to an agreement. Especially with the harsh gestures coming from both sides: according to the union, ConEd cut the health insurance and pension plans of the locked out workers soon after negotiations failed last week. And counterpoint: according to the officials, the union’s strike on Thursday delayed what could have been a much more productive session that day.
The Voice will keep you updated on the negotiations as they continue throughout the weekend. Word of advice: keep the A/C on Energy Saver.