Con Edison has locked out thousands of union workers since July 1. After (waiting four weeks and) demanding yesterday that state legislators make the utility and union resolve the issue, Governor Cuomo today announced that Local 1-2 workers would be allowed back on the job. But not because an agreement had been made—it's because of Mother Nature.
Cuomo said in a statement "Due to the potential safety issues and emergency response needs that may result from the storm, earlier this morning I met with the leadership of Con Ed and Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America. At my request and in the interest of the safety of New Yorkers, Con Ed and Local 1-2 have agreed that the necessary personnel will immediately return to work to prepare for the possibility of an approaching storm and will remain on the job for the duration of any emergency and any following repairs. Con Ed and Local 1-2 will continue to work aggressively to reach a full contract agreement. I want to thank President Harry Farrell of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America, President of the International Union of UAW Michael Langford, and Con Edison President and CEO Kevin Burke for coming together and putting the interests of the people first."
The Daily News points out, "The governor doesn't control the weather (yet), but since he's not generally in the habit of backing a loser, your gut had to tell you that if he was ready to lean on the PSC [Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities], something was likely already in the works that would end up redounding to his credit..."
The two sides have been trying to work things out over pensions, health care, and their wages. Con Ed claims that locked out employees have been putting managers—who are being assigned to job scenes—in danger while the union members deny those accusations and say that Con Ed is putting everyone's lives in danger by keeping them locked out.
Update: Cuomo, with Con Ed executives and Local 1-2 leaders present, announced that the lockout was really over. Cuomo told reporters, "Sometimes a storm has a silver lining."
Crain's New York reports, "The two sides had made some progress with the help of federal mediators, but both the company and union said that Mr. Cuomo’s intervention Thursday helped to bring about the deal. Neither side would immediately release details of the agreement... The governor said that his direct involvement in the talks came about as a result of the pending storm. But he was also likely influenced by a growing chorus of voices worried that widespread loss of power was only an incident away"—like "a hard-hitting column in The New York Times suggested the governor was standing by while the city was at risk of a blackout."