Union Kicks Up Charter Battle

The union representing about 1,800 Charter Communications technicians in New York are stepping up their efforts to force the cable operator back to the negotiating table, reportedly spending $3 million in an all-out campaign to get customers in the area to switch providers.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 has been on strike at Charter since March 2017. The union local, which has been without a contract since 2013, is embarking on a campaign including direct mail, TV, print and digital ads, as well as hiring individuals to knock on Charter customer doors to try to convince them to switch. As part of the ad campaign, the spots reportedly show how much customers can save if they drop Charter service and subscribe to streaming video services.

News of the campaign was first reported by the New York Post. 

IBEW members walked out nearly two years ago complaining of poor working conditions and plans by Charter to take over its pension plan. The union has attracted support from several prominent local and state politicians, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who participated in a union rally against Charter in December.

Charter has denied the union’s claims, adding that it provides superior service backed by an 11,000-person highly trained New York state workforce.

“This campaign is basically telling people to choose inferior broadband, poor customer service and no NY1 or Spectrum Networks, effectively punishing themselves and their families for the union’s insistence on control over employee retirement funds,” Charter said in a statement.

IBEW Local 3 business manager Christopher Erikson did not return a phone call for comment. But he told the Post Dec. 10 that the union believed it necessary to “hit them where it hurts” because of what he characterized as nearly two-years of “union-busting” tactics.

Charter, in a statement, said it has been negotiating in good faith with the union over the past 20 months and “we are incredibly disappointed that despite our best efforts and numerous offers, the union continues to block an agreement. Charter has offered significant concessions to end the strike — including addressing the union's two biggest concerns, bringing strikers back and making payments into the union's benefits plan. Nevertheless, we remain committed to investing in our first-class workforce and delivering superior products and service to our customers.”