Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Monday is the first day many Consolidated Edison workers will go without a paycheck. The approximately 8,000 splicers call center operators and grid designers have been locked out of their jobs since July 1, which means they will do without wages and health insurance until the two sides come to an agreement.
Tom Crawford has worked for Con Ed 23 years. On Sunday, he was one of a handful of workers sitting behind a picket line at Con Ed's offices near Union Square. Crawford says he's applied for unemployment benefits but expects those won't kick in for several weeks. "Like I said, right now it's tight and if it's any prolonged period then it's going to be extremely tight," Crawford said.
Crawford and others present said they were willing to stick it out, adding the utility company was asking for concessions that were not fair.
Union officials said management wants workers to accept a less generous pension plan, as well as higher healthcare premiums and co-pays.
Con Ed wouldn't comment on the contract sticking points. "We're not going to negotiate in the press," spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said.
The workers were locked out after Local 1-2 refused to give management 72-hours notice before a strike. Union officials said labor is the only leverage they have and it wouldn't have made sense to give that up.
Charlie Migliore is an operating mechanic at a plant on 16th street and says he's 50 years old and has saved for a rainy day such as this one but the bigger problem for him is not having health insurance. "I'm a few years removed from a triple bypass so I'm out here I need my medications. I have a 90 day supply," Migliore explained. "After that it's going to be pick and choose what I want to purchase. I know the COBRA, I can't afford it right now.
A union spokesman said to extend health coverage through COBRA would cost between $1,200 and $2,000 a month, depending on a family's size.
John Melia from Local 1-2 said workers wages vary greatly from $12 an hour for those just starting out to $59 an hour for trained professionals with years on the job.
Health insurance is also a problem for worker Robert Williams, who said he has a sick wife in need of a blood transfusion and endoscopy. "That's been cancelled," Williams said. "And CVS called and they cancelled the prescription medications. So I'm in a bad way right now."
While the picket line was slim on Sunday, union officials said it would pick up during the week.
Talks are expected to resume Tuesday.