NEW YORK CITY, NY, July 18 — “While profits soar, Con Ed takes the food out of our children’s mouths!“ read the sign of one UWUA (Utility Workers’ Union of America) Local 1-2 worker, locked out by the Consolidated Edison utility company. The bosses will continue to steal food from our families until workers bring forth a communist society, where we all get what we need.
Con Ed locked out their 8,500 workers and is using 5,000 managers as scabs.Con Ed had engineers teach contractors how to do the work two months before the lockout.
Workers Must Fight Back Against Scabs, Cops, Bosses
At the Rye, NY location, workers have physically stopped scab trucks from entering. Con Ed filed an injunction to prevent no more than four workers picketing at any single location and at a certain distance from the location.
Teamsters’ drivers, who make truck deliveries to Con Ed, have refused to cross picket lines with four or more workers. On Sunday night, the workers stopped a delivery of an electrical transformer in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. This could lead to blackouts. There is no capital work going on; workers in Bensonhurst are still preventing the delivery of emergency generators.
The union made a call for all workers who were pregnant, on dialysis, on chemo or other such conditions to come out to Union Square in Manhattan. The next day, Con Ed gave back healthcare they took away two days into the lockout.
Unite Against Racist Cuts
PLP has been on the picket lines everyday since the lockout. In one picket location, several workers didn’t want an anti-racist sign posted up on the police barricades and complained that the lockout had nothing to do with racism. A PL’er, the spouse of one of the workers, argued that the cuts Con Ed demanded were in fact racist since the greatest cuts came when the workforce became more black and Latino. The Con Ed workers weren’t convinced and the comrade asked if the new workers don’t deserve the same benefits as the traditionally Italian workers that dominated the workforce in decades past. Ashamed, the workers who opposed to the anti-racist sign allowed the PL’er to put it up. We still struggle with our friends to agree that these attacks are racist.
Many workers on the picket lines are convinced that following the rules and abiding by law is the right thing to do. When a PL’er said cops keep the workers out and scabs in, one worker insisted that the cops are only doing their jobs. When days later cops harassed workers about having a barbeque grill and sitting in the shade instead of being in the sun, the union stewards asked workers to oblige. But one worker protested, saying, “We didn’t win pensions by following the law. Workers didn’t get benefits by following the law. We had to fight for it.” The bosses own the courts and kkkops. Relying on worker’s power is our only winning strategy.
Gutting the Union
Con Ed is making record profits but they presented a contract to break the union: no guaranteed pension, lower wages and paying more for health benefits. Current employees would pay for their retirement by selling out new members who, after 30 years of service, will get a measly $800 monthly retirement benefit. Local 1-2 said no to this offer. Con Ed said the union needed to give two weeks notice if they wanted to strike. Local 1-2 said no.
When the ruling class can gut the pensions of some workers, all workers suffer. But this struggle is about more than just pay and benefits. It is a struggle for power.
Under capitalism the bosses have all the money and control the courts, cops and contracts. Capitalist competition forces bosses to get richer or go under. Ultimately, even if we “win” this contract fight, the bosses will attack us again, whether it’s the current Con Ed CEO Burke or some other capitalist exploiter. But the bosses can’t replace our labor! Workers can run the world without bosses but realign the bosses cannot live or get rich without us.
By fighting for more militancy, building a movement to destroy capitalism and develop workers power — communism — we can move forward, no matter what the outcome of this contract struggle.
The Only Long-Term Winning Strategy for Workers is Communism
The union has two sayings: “When we go out, the lights go out” and “Whatever it takes.” It’s the rank-and-file workers who will really show NY what these phrases mean by physically confronting management and scabs.
Ultimately, only communism can really be a future for the working class. By eliminating the profit motive, we would be able to improve crucial infrastructure, clean utilities (water, gas, electric) and make sure the only lights that go out are on the bosses.