The Spectrum strike by Local Union #3, which represents approximately 1,800 Charter Communications Inc and Spectrum employees in New York and New Jersey is nearing the half-year mark. The union has been on strike since March 28 on the grounds that Spectrum workers have not had a contract since the previous one under Time Warner Cable expired in 2013.
Charter Communications was known as Time Warner Cable prior to its acquisition in 2016. It has approximately 2.5 million residential and business subscribers in its New York area.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) walked off the job in March after Charter allegedly refused to bargain with Local 3 for more than two years.
The union maintains that Charter/Spectrum:
- Promised Internet speeds knowing their equipment was not capable of delivering
- Has been disciplining technicians over repeat service calls to customers over unobtainable Wi-Fi Internet speeds
- Is forcing technicians to install refurbished equipment not capable of maintaining Internet speeds
- Is not providing proper training or promotions to their technicians
- Uses subcontractors from other states in violation of the New York City Franchise Agreement
As mentioned, the disciplinary measures implemented by Charter Communications, in penalizing Spectrum technicians for troubles allegedly caused by the company’s cost-cutting measures, are one of the issues.
Technicians are penalized for the rate of repeat visits they have to make within a given period of time after a previous repair dispatch. Union members say repeat visits are frequently caused by faulty or outdated equipment, which is failing after years of inadequate maintenance and the failure to build out enough capacity in a developing neighborhood. All of which, the union alleges, is the result of cost-cutting efforts to boost short-term earnings and share value.
Moreover, striking field technicians, warehouse workers, and engineering department workers walked out to protest a number of changes Charter wants the union members to adopt. This includes shifting the cost of health care and pensions onto employees as well as the elimination of funding for union-provided benefits.
Charter wants to:
- Eliminate Educational and Cultural Trust Fund contributions
- Eliminate Annuity/HRA contributions, Dental, and the Company 401k
- Eliminate overtime pay for Saturday and Sunday
- Reduce holidays from nine to seven days
- Have employees paid bi-weekly instead of weekly
- Eliminate all personal days and payout of unused sick time
The union issues are not without merit. In February 2017, New York State Attorney General Eric Schniederman filed a lawsuit against Charter Communications and its Spectrum-TWC subsidiary for allegedly misleading and defrauding customers for promising Internet service the company knew it couldn’t provide.
While striking, Local 3 members are trying to survive on $300.00 a week; the same cannot be said for company CEO Tom Rutledge. Rutledge, who helped oversee the Time Warner acquisition, is the highest paid executive in America.
He saw his total compensation package soar from $16.36 million in 2015 to $98.51 million in 2016. Rutledge’s base salary has remained at $2.0 million for the last number of years, but his stock and option awards have soared. The majority of his 2016 compensation, $78.0 million, came in the form of stock option grants that vest over several years, and can only be cashed in if Charter’s stock reaches new highs.
“Local Union No.3, IBEW ON STRIKE AGAINST Charter Communications/Spectrum,” IBEW Local Union No. 3, March 28, 2017.
“Schedule 14A, Charter Communications, Inc.,” Securities and Exchange Commission, March 16, 2017.
“A.G. Schneiderman Announces Lawsuit Against Spectrum-Time Warner Cable And Charter Communications For Allegedly Defrauding New Yorkers Over Internet Speeds And Performance,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, February 1, 2017.