Charter workers strike in New York and New Jersey

Strike signs

Days after Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge visited the White House to join President Trump in promising 20,000 new U.S.-based cable jobs, the No. 2 U.S. operator has been hit with a strike by workers in New York and New Jersey.

According to reports in the New York Daily News and Multichannel News, at least 1,700 workers walked off the job Tuesday. The workers, with job descriptions ranging from field engineer to warehouse employee, claim they have endured deteriorating work conditions and forfeited benefits since Charter closed its acquisition of Time Warner Cable last May. The members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 said they have been working without contracts since 2013.

FierceCable reached out to IBEW and Charter for comment, but neither has responded as of yet.

“There’s a lot of old equipment out in the field itself and if that goes down it will impact customers,” Derek Jordan, business agent with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, told the Daily News. “If there are outages, troubles with modems, things like that, our workers are usually the ones who fix things,” he added.

“Spectrum's primary objective is to provide great service to our customers, and we believe fairly compensated field technicians are critical to that objective,” Charter Vice President of Field Communications Rich Ruggiero said in a statement posted by Multichannel News. “This is why Spectrum is offering our field technicians an even larger pay increase than the union has demanded, along with competitive and robust healthcare and retirement benefits.

"Spectrum made this offer on Feb. 12 and didn't receive a counterproposal from Local 3 until two days ago (March 26)," he continued.  "We believe this greater compensation to be more beneficial to our employees than continuing to fund the failing union-managed benefits program. We have a solid contingency plan in place and don’t expect customers to be impacted by Local 3’s actions.”

The company has 2.5 million customers in New York. The striking workers also service Bergen County, New Jersey, just outside New York City.

The walkout provided a contrast with Charter’s more ebullient public posture on jobs recently.

Cable operators are facing increased competition from OTTs and skinny-bundle services, and some have opted to roll out some of their own internet-delivered packages. While those conditions have resulted in consolidation and accompanying job losses, Rutledge and other cable executives have welcomed Washington’s changing posture on regulations. At the White House press briefing last week, Rutledge and Trump highlighted a plan to hire some 20,000 workers across the United States, as well as a bilingual call center in McAllen, Texas, where the company will employe 600. The effort is geared toward replacing overseas facilities. But as noted, the pledge was not new and the $25 billion in investment by Charter hailed by Trump was set long before his election victory, as part of Charter’s acquisition of Bright House Networks.

Article updated March 30 with information about the number and location of Charters planned workforce.