On July 1st, Con Edison locked out its workforce in order to pressure their union, Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, into accepting concessions during contract negotiations. 8,500 workers are now maintaining 24/7 pickets in each borough of New York City, and the city’s electrical grid is being maintained by Con Ed management staff. The following flyer was distributed among the Con Ed workers on the third day of the lockout.
THE MOST POWERFUL WORKERS IN NEW YORK CITY
Con Ed, MTA and healthcare workers are the most powerful workers in the entire city. But they have been defeated by the bosses and politicians in every major labor fight in the last decade. Unless things change quick, more defeats are coming.
The bosses win because they pit poor and working class communities against the workers when the workers resist. In this fight over the Con Ed contract, many everyday people see the wages of Con Ed workers as the cause of their high utilities bill, instead of a small taste of what all working class people could win if they stick together. Others consider the lockout a private matter to be handled between Con Ed and its workforce, instead of an issue that affects all New Yorkers. This is a trap set by the bosses and politicians, and it has worked all to well.
The only way to escape this trap is for workers to lead all of New York City in a struggle for a better life, including people outside their own workplaces and unions. If MTA workers called a fare strike with free transit for everyone in the city, all poor and working people would immediately support it. If Con Ed workers called for a strike to end stop and frisk and make utilities free, every young person of color in the city would have their back.
If workers provided this kind of leadership, all the crap about young people smoking weed and acting like delinquents would disappear. Young people would show up at picket lines and throw eggs at managers. They would fight the police and tooth and nail if scabs were brought in. Instead of beefing with each other and hurting the community, poor and working class youth would direct their anger at the bosses, politicians and police who oppress us all. One million students are on summer vacation right now, with no work and few social programs, waiting to take up this fight.
Will Con Ed workers provide this leadership for New York City? It will require leaving isolated pickets outside Con Ed yards, and doing public actions at drop-in centers and other busy locations across the city. It will require explaining to millions of everyday people what the Con Ed workers are fighting for, and discussing with them how to fight against the bosses, in the common interest. It will require finding new ways to fight, and taking initiative without waiting for direction from the union leadership.
If free utilities, healthcare, and transport become part of workers’ demands, the working class of New York City will unite, and become unstoppable. Then workers will be able to win not only a contract, but a hell of a lot more.