Around a thousand people are currently engaged in a boisterous demonstration outside ConEd's headquarters to protest the utility's termination of over 8,000 union employees on Sunday. "They're playing games with people's lives," says David Guh, a ConEd employee for eight years before he was locked out. Guh points to the rash of occupational injuries that have ocurred in the last several days. "When they put their own employees in harm's way—how can they justify this?"
Guh was attending the march with his wife Adrian and his baby daughter Penni. He says that he'll probably have to get another job, but "I'll keep my picketing hours. We all have to." Guh says he hopes that the lockout will end soon. Union representatives and ConEd management are scheduled to meet at noon today at an undisclosed location.
Maureen Keating, a ConEd worker for nearly 12 years, isn't as optimistic. "Part of me hopes it will end soon, but I think they planned this. [ConEd] thinks they can run the city with the managers—we'll see if they can pull it off. I think it's crazy." Keating says she's lucky that her husband works full-time to pick up the slack from her lost paycheck. "At least I don't have to pay for day care while I'm out of a job."
Members of UWUA Local 1-2 say that those workers are either managers who haven't been in the field in years, or "fresh-faced," recent college graduates who have gone through a week of training and still have little feel for the job. "They don't know the tools, they can't lift heavy things, they just don't have the training," one ConEd employee of 22 years says.
The man, who refused to give his name, citing the company's "culture of intimidation" ("You'll end up working 80 miles from home if you step out of line."), says greed is ConEd's primary motivation.
"Every contract, it's: 'what do we have to give back?' not, 'what do we get?' [Con Ed CEO] Kevin Burke says that we should 'celebrate success' and all that, just not with us."
The man, who says his father and grandfather worked for ConEd for 50 and 45 years respectively, says that the company wasn't prepared to deal with the union's response.
"This is not how you deal with people after you make record profits. Unemployment costs $3.4 million a week. It's either pay now or pay later. [ConEd] dropped the ball in a major way. It's revolting." A march from the utility's headquarters on Irving Place to CEO Kevin Burke's home on the Upper East Side is scheduled for 4 p.m.