What the ConEd Lockout Means for Labor

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Susan Schurman, dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, discusses the ConEd lockout as it relates to the larger conversation about the role of labor unions and strategy.

Comments [28]

Elle from NYC

Remember one thing as you write your comments...Local 1-2 can walk back in the door anytime they want there is/has been an extension of the old contract and a 72 hr strike notice offer sitting on the table...Fact is Harry Farrell and company refuse to sign it. Why? Because they want to walk off the job at any crucial time they feel to gain leverage for themselves to get more money..that's why. With that allowed that puts the entire system at risk and Coned just isn't having it...these are the tactics unionized labor is using. Did anyone know they are intentionally attempting to block important equipment from being replaced so it will fail and hence again give them a leg up at a bargaining table. Fact remains the union has been holding Coned hostage now for many years with its antics and mediocre productivity..there comes a time where everyone has to pay the piper.

Jul. 25 2012 09:48 AM
Mike from Ny

These workers were locked out by con ed their union is suing con ed to get them back to work they are not striking tbey are locked out by their employer gary from Queens and that hoboken idiot con ed is playing with fire if there are blackouts and people get hurt wow the amount of money they would get sued for would be huge

Jul. 14 2012 07:48 AM
Pat from Bklyn

How come the failed transformer at the Bensonhurst Substation on Bay Parkway in Brooklyn hasn't made it into the news?

Jul. 13 2012 04:14 PM
Larry Racies from Chelsea

This lockout could happen every time a contract expires unless we take the only intelligent solution. That is, to do what hundreds of smart municipalities in the us have done, buy the system and run it as a nonprofit city agency just like we now do with the water supply.

The idea of having an electrical monopoly run as a for profit entity for the benefit of a few managers and stockholders should be repellant to any right thinking, intelligent New Yorker, yet no one has said a peep about it.

If we did what Los Angeles did years ago the exhorbitant rates would go down, the plant would be improved and, more importantly, the electrical system would be run for the benefit of the users, rather than for the benefit of the stockholders

So, wake up, get our billionaire mayor off his ass and wasting our time with large sodas while our electrical monopoly locks out their workers, and get him working on a constructive project that would benefit all New Yorkers.

For Chris Quinn, and her opponents, here's a potent, vote getting campaign subject for you.

Jul. 12 2012 06:54 PM
meredith from nyc

the man who called in about corporate lobbying having big advantages over public unions made a good point, well stated. I've read the amount of lobbying money isn't comparable, and a whole program should be done on this.

Also another poster mentioned Bill Moyers recent show on unions--it was excellent.

Jul. 11 2012 12:29 AM
Alan from New York

So, Gary, you would have such a take-what-can-be-takener as your president? And one who not only takes but does his utmost to hide his holdings from public view while asking for that same public's trust in his leadership? This is what conservatives like?

As to your remarks about liberal politicians and celebrities wanting the middle class to pay more: If America still had the middle class it had before that class began to be decimated by conservative policies, the taxes it would now provide would certainly add up to enough to rapidly eat away at the deficit. We are rapidly becoming a country of two classes, upper and lower. For all the money you may amass, you'll find that the life you live in such a place won't be a happy one.

Jul. 10 2012 06:20 PM
gary from queens


YOU MISS THE POINT. Conservatives like me are not offended by the rich who seek to shelter their wealth. Indeed, it is part of our philosophy to accept human nature, which is to TAKE what can be TAKEN. Whether it's the wealthy, or the person who's on SSI for being diagnosed with anxiety attacks. (I know one such person. An active street mechanic who's been on that program and food stamps and free rent etc for 20 yrs.)

No, what conservatives hate are hypocritical politicians and celebs who seek favor from the public by condemning wealth and profits, yet they themselves shelter their wealth (Bon Jovi is the worst among them) even better than conservatives do.

they want higher taxes to make government bigger and more intrussive in our lives. But dont hold your breath waiting for them to pay more. They want you----the middle class----to pay more too.

Why? because they know that the real wealth is held by the middle class. take all the wealth from the 1% and you will only fund the fed gov for 4 months.

Jul. 10 2012 03:20 PM
Martin from Queens

Until three years ago, Swiss law protected the privacy of bank clients who failed to report taxable income. High-rollers wishing to stash undeclared and untaxed income could secretly deposit money in Swiss banks, confident that their transactions would be shielded from the eyes of IRS auditors. Their money mingled with that of some of the world's biggest money hiders: guys like Lybia's Muammar Qaddafi, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Haiti’s Jean-Claud Duvalier. Then, under pressure from the United States and other nations, and after Switzerland-based USB paid a $780 million settlement and admitted to defrauding the IRS, Switzerland eliminated some of its tax-haven banking secrecy. That was in 2009. Mitt Romney closed his Swiss bank account a few months later, joining other American high rollers who suddenly began looking elsewhere to park their multi-millions.

Jul. 10 2012 02:32 PM
Martin from Queens

Romney's $100 million 401k amounts to a huge tax dodge. 401k accounts were sold to Americans as a tool to help middle income people save for retirement. The idea that a man worth a quarter billion dollars would also need 401k protection designed for office workers, truck drivers and store clerks is laughable. But Romney has found a way, so far unexplained, to build sums in his 401K that have been far in excess of this year's all-time-high $55,500 maximum contribution, and that have nothing to do with the vehicle's intended purpose. And because 401ks are not subject to inheritance taxes, his will allow him to avoid taxes on mind-boggling sums of money.

Jul. 10 2012 01:30 PM
Robert from Brooklyn

One point I have not heard mentioned is the role of technology. I have a friend recently retired from ConEd after 40 years, and he told me he could see this coming; ConEd has been installing new transformers which make it highly unlikely that there will be any serious serious or sustained blackouts; what this comes down to is that fewer workers will be needed, thus emboldening ConEd to lock out the workers and defy the unions.

Jul. 10 2012 12:46 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ gary -

You and the rightwing sound machine, again, have avoided facts. Yes, higher union wages drive up membership wages, higher societal wages AS WELL AS higher prices. Of course, higher income societies have higher prices and that clearly is an net boon. Or would you rather live in a WalMart world of goods AND jobs. I don't think so.

GM was driven out of business because of its poor business product decisions (primary problem), lack of understanding of globalization, expectation of continued social contract with unions AND management, and poor negotiation skills.

Moreover, and most cases, unions NEGOTIATE in good faith with management and/or elected officials to largely form a productive enterprise. They are not handed anything. The best global example is goes to the best, most stable economy: Germany where management and labor sit on the board of directorships and everyone knows labor is part of their country's success.

Here are some among many studies:

--Blanchflower, David G. and Alex Bryson. 2002. “Changes over time in union relative wage effects in the U.K. and the U.S. revisited.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 9395. Cambridge, Mass.: NBER. < >

--How unions help all workers

--(LOCAL level) Unions Drive Up Las Vegas Casino Wages, Study Says

And on income inequality due to loss of union membership (both public and private):

--[PDF] Unions, Norms, and the Rise in American Wage Inequality

Jul. 10 2012 12:29 PM
gary from queens

in the private sector, higher wages drives up prices. that's the hidden tax from higher wages.

unions also do not drive up wages for non union workers. thats a fact.

Unions do one thing tho, they drive companies like GM out of business, and then liberal presidents like Obama bail out the union retirement accounts with our with our money.

Jul. 10 2012 11:11 AM
gary from queens

Amalgam----"Secondly, rightwingers don't seem to get that higher wages across society, historically and today, are driven by union wages. That has and always will be the case."

No study shows that. Government workers do not compete with the private sector. My employer in prepress industry didn't have to increase my wage because government increased my counterpart in government. because there was no counterpart. And hence the wages were not driven up by the higher wage earner in gov.

Jul. 10 2012 10:49 AM
gary from gary


youi are being disingenuous. you're elected representatives in government must approve rate hikes for public utilities.

And many others post links on this blog. (and long massages.) the moderator even encourages proper attribution. at least she did a few months ago when some people quoted without attribution.

Jul. 10 2012 10:40 AM
Brian from Hoboken

If there are electrical emergencies, the workers should be forced back to work or fired. They work or a utility company- which though private has a special relationship to the public. If I were a New Yorker and something happened to te power in the middle of the summer with these guys picketing, I would be out there counter-protesting the union's contempt for the public.

Jul. 10 2012 10:31 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Sophie....Gary from Queens got mentioned because, for once - he did not cut and paste an entire treatise onto the comments section.

Jul. 10 2012 10:27 AM
liz from Brooklyn

Why are the shareholders willing to pay these ridiculous executive salaries?

Jul. 10 2012 10:24 AM
martha from greenpoint

I inherited a small array of stocks and never bothered to cash them in Con Ed seems to have by far the biggest shareholder divided of all the essentially public utility stocks. This seems to be the company simply trying to break the union benefits because the climate of opinion (and shows like this is a mild version: "the union blew it") allows it

Jul. 10 2012 10:24 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ gary -

First of all, the union was locked out so that burden is on the ConEd, not the union.

Secondly, rightwingers don't seem to get that higher wages across society, historically and today, are driven by union wages. That has and always will be the case.

Finally, how much do you want to bet that the lights won't go out?

Jul. 10 2012 10:23 AM
kikakiki from Harlem

private sector unions follow public sector - that is why the attack on public sector unions, when the public sector goes down the private sector will have free reign.

Jul. 10 2012 10:23 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Wow! Gary from Queens finally got a mention on air!

Jul. 10 2012 10:22 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Gary - what a load of utter nonsense. "The "management" is essentially the public"?

I, as part of the "public," can't recall raising electric rates on myself.

Jul. 10 2012 10:19 AM
jane from east village

At this moment ConEd is tearing up the street below my windows (now that it's again cool enough to have them open). This is not emergency work – they've had it staked out for weeks. Surely these are not managers running the jackhammers. What's up with this? I can't listen to the show!

Jul. 10 2012 10:18 AM
Benny from LES

Who has ever retired on a 401k?

Jul. 10 2012 10:17 AM
g in staten island from staten island

Why does Con Ed need 5000 managers for 8000+ workers? Think of the ratio of management to workers. A few less high paid managers and Con Ed could afford to keep the defined benefit plan and health insurance. also, they would not be able to have a lock out and have enough people to do the day to day jobs if there were fewer managers.

Jul. 10 2012 10:16 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

The city ought to come down very hard on all retail businesses that prop their doors open, allowing the cool air-conditioned air to escape and wasting huge amounts of energy.

And consumers ought to boycott such businesses now and in the future, and even better, to inform the retail managers why they are doing so.

If there SHOULD be a power outage due to over-demand, given the heat we tend to have nowadays, it is not an exaggeration nor overly dramatic to say that life & death is involved in these decisions and actions by retailers, who are placing their profits ahead of people's lives.

Jul. 10 2012 10:16 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Bill Moyers' latest installment examines today's labor movement:

Jul. 10 2012 10:14 AM
gary from queens

Don't think that liberals living in the heat and darkness from this Con Ed strike will make the connection that working for a government-santioned monoply is no different than working for the government: The "management" is essentially the public, which means the public will be held hostage in a strike by workers.

Cities and towns cannot print money or borrow from China. They go bankrupt, as one in california had done the other week.

You would think liberals----whose mission statement always includes the philosophy, "For the common good"----would understand the position of the public with respect government workers.

But apparrently for them, unions trump the common.

Jul. 10 2012 09:59 AM

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