The strike by more than 1,800 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers against their employer, Spectrum-Time Warner Cable, isn’t just important to only the families of the cable technicians who are fighting back against corporate greed. Their strike is important to all of us who believe in good jobs that build better lives and stronger families and communities. Their courage should resonate with everybody who has had enough of a corporate race to the bottom where workers are disrespected and benefits and pensions continue to be attacked.
In many ways, the action echoes the 2010 strike by hundreds of RWDSU members at Mott’s in Williamson. In that case, as in this one, workers pushed back against a successful, profitable company, owned by an even larger company (Dr Pepper/Snapple), that was attacking their workers and trying to destroy hard-earned benefits that members had earned for years. Local, national and international support grew for the striking RWDSU Local 220 members, many of whom had decades of service at the applesauce plant. Their strike came to symbolize the struggle of workers to keep quality jobs in an era when corporations value workers’ contributions less and less. After a long four months, Mott’s workers won their strike, negotiating a fair contract with good wage increases that protected benefits and gave them the security they had earned.
We see a similar fight at Spectrum, where cable technicians have been working without a new contract for years as the company has refused to negotiate in good faith. The company—whose CEO made almost $100 million in 2016—is proposing drastic health care cuts for unionized workers and their families and wants to eliminate pensions and job security. The company also refuses to amend its discipline policy that punishes workers for making multiple visits to a household, when most technical problems are because of the fact that the company hasn’t updated equipment in decades. Buildings aren’t properly wired, equipment is old and outdated and workers are forced to take the blame for cable speeds that often fall so short of advertised performance that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of defrauding consumers.
When a multibillion-dollar corporation attacks middle-class workers’ benefits and retirements, it threatens the health of entire communities. And when a cable company replaces trusted, skilled technicians who enter consumers’ homes every day with unknown scabs from outside of the community with little experience, that’s worrisome for our families.
Mott’s workers fought back and won, and protected middle class jobs and communities. And they did it with support of consumers and their communities. Spectrum workers need the same support, and they need to win, to send a message that our jobs—and our lives and our families—are important. Working people cannot accept corporate attacks on our quality of life in the name of higher profits.