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Abinanti to Con Ed: More Light, Less Heat

A statement issued by Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti on the Con Edison lockout.

To Con Edison, I say, provide more light and less heat!

Con Ed, a public utility and monopoly, is charged with providing safe economical service to the public. It has total control of the delivery of electricity and gas to the people and businesses in its service area. Con Ed—this is not just about management-labor relations. It’s about public safety and cost to consumers.

Make no mistake, the is part of aggressive strategy waged by corporate management around the country – class warfare -the 1% declared war on the rest of us – and the 1% is winning.  The 1% has systematically lowered our standard of living to enhance their own. Con Ed workers are the frontline fighters for the working class. Their fight will determine whether the 1% will take more and more and leave the rest of us with less and less…. whether the economic benefits of our democracy will be horded by that 1%  or shared with the working people who make our companies – and our country – work.

Fairness is not a word in management’s vocabulary. Con Ed workers deserve a fair contract – that gives a fair return on the work they invest in Con Edison to make it strong.

But this is about more than just fairness for Con Ed employees. Con Ed made a strategic move to lock-out its workers to enhance its bargaining-table position. However, while it continues to provide electricity, it has left the public in the dark about the lock-out’s cost – in money and safety – to those who sit at kitchen tables and work tables in Con Ed’s service area.

What is the monetary cost to ratepayers for the meals and motels for the imported round-the-clock out-of-state contractors? What is the monetary cost to ratepayers for the surcharge imposed for estimated rather than meter-read bills?  Only Con Ed could continue to charge for a service it is not providing – then impose a surcharge because it is not providing it!

What is the risk to the public from the inexperience of the replacements? Managers who are have not for a long time - or never – worked the jobs they are now asked to do. We’ve already had at least one manager injured. Have you seen them try to drive rigs they’ve never driven before?  Underground is not overhead -out-of-town contractors are have never seen a complex underground system like New York’s. How many incidents have occurred without public notice?

What is the danger to customers’ appliances – refrigerators, air conditioners, computers, medical equipment - from the voltage reductions – which have been acknowledged but downplayed by Con Edison? How severe have the reductions been? How long can our equipment take the strain – while Con Ed has off-loaded the risk of damage from its equipment to its customers’ equipment?

And remind me again – what is the excuse for locking out the 8500 workers who have been effectively providing the public with safe reliable power?

I call on Con Ed management to:

  • Give accurate, not misleading information.
  1. It’s a lockout, not a work stoppage –correct the website.
  2. Explain to the public who is maintaining the system – qualifications, etc.
  3. Explain the extent and impacts of voltage reductions, brownouts, etc.
  • Give more information.
  1. Restore real-time outage reporting.
  2. Report all incidents on the web site.
  • Shareholders and management, not the public, should pay for management negotiating strategy decisions.
  1. Eliminate the estimated-bill surcharge.
  2. Give a full accounting now of the ongoing costs for lockout and document that all costs will be borne by shareholders and not ratepayers.
  3. Explain why Con Edison management continues to collect full compensation when the workers are living on unemployment insurance. Why should they continue to receive their outrageous monopoly salaries and perks while they inconvenience and threaten the safety of the public? Explain why there’s a need for 5000 managers to oversee 8500 workers.

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