Monday, October 9, 2017

Striking Charter Workers Ramp up Attacks on Cable Giant -

1,700 Charter employees in New York and New Jersey walked off the job six months ago, saying the recent acquisition of Time Warner Cable has resulted in even worse benefits and working conditions. They also say Charter is even more intractable in negotiations on a new contract that Time Warner Cable executives were, and has refused to budge whatsoever on issues like pension reductions and what workers say has been the slow but steady erosion of medical benefits.

Hoping to get more traction for their battle, the unions have started running a number of new ads like this one that blast Charter for skimping on employees while Charter CEO Tom Rutledge was the highest paid executive in America last year.

"If the CEO makes $98 million, how is our contract going to affect him?" a worker in the ad asks.

Lawmakers have started to also make noise, arguing that the ongoing strike is having a negative impact on the company's customers. Alphonso David, the lawyer for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, fired off a letter last week to Charter expressing concern that the strike was preventing Charter from making good on its merger promises.

"I understand that as a result of the current strike, Charter's employee workforce has been diminished in size and skill, leaving customers vulnerable to poor service," David wrote in the October 2 letter. "Charter's actions therefore contradict the representations it made to the State's regulator."

Charter, as you might expect, denies it has done anything wrong, and continues to insist the pay and benefit package it's offering these workers is perfectly fair.

"This benefit package is in line with the medical, pension and savings plans enjoyed by more than 90,000 Charter employees nationwide," a Charter spokesman tells Fortune. "And this competitive offer will have a positive, lasting impact on employees' standard of living and allows us to grow a well-paid, highly skilled workforce for the benefit of our customers."

Still, Charter's reputation has been on the decline since its megamerger, and these striking unions are only a small part of the equation.

The strike arrived on the heels of a New York Attorney General lawsuit against Charter for failing to provide advertised speeds, and for using intentional peering point congestion to extract additional tolls from transit and content providers. The freshly-merged company is also facing a lawsuit for a laundry list of repeated billing screw ups in the wake of the deal, as well as a lawsuit for using bogus fees to help the company falsely advertise a lower rate. The company was also recently fined for failing to meet fairly-modest build out conditions attached to its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

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