IBEW Turns Up Heat in Charter Strike

Union airing spots highlighting workers’ plight

The union representing about 1,800 Charter Communications employees in the New York area is turning up the heat in its months-long strike with the cable company, spending an estimated six-figures for an ad campaign aimed at showing how Charter’s policies are affecting workers.

News of the ad campaign was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The ad campaign comes a day after Charter announced plans to build a sprawling new headquarters in Connecticut, with state incentives tied to adding about 1,100 corporate jobs over the years. 

Members of The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 went on strike on March 28, over what they said were attempts by the company to cut workers’ health and retirement benefits. Charter has countered that it has offered workers a 22% raise in compensation (up to 55% for some employees) and a comprehensive benefit package including 401(k) savings plan with a dollar-for-dollar match up to 6 percent of eligible pay.

Charter spokesman Rich Ruggierio said the company would have no comment on the ads, adding that Charter’s focus is on “our customers and the fact that by keeping its members out of work, Local 3 is denying our employees a generous compensation package."

He added that the package being offered Local 3 members “is in line with the medical, pension and savings plans enjoyed by more than 90,000 Charter employees nationwide. And this competitive offer will have a positive, lasting impact on employees' standard of living and allows us to grow a well-paid, highly skilled workforce for the benefit of our customers.”

The union has claimed that its existing benefits are better, and their efforts have drawn support from local and state politicians – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo attended a rally on Sept. 18 to support the workers.

In one of the spots, featured Charter construction foreman Marvin Billups, a 20-year veteran of the company and its predecessors in Northern Manhattan, and pointed to how the company’s new health plan – replacing its union benefit – would require employees to pay $12,000 more per year and receive less coverage.

“It makes me feel like the time I put in doesn’t matter,” Billups said.