New Yorkers pay a lot for their electricity, among the highest rates in the country. I routinely pay more every month for far less electricity usage in my one bedroom apartment than my parents pay in their good sized home in Indianapolis. And the summer, with its heat and extended AC usage, usually triples or quadruples what I pay in the winter months. So when my ConEd bill arrived this month, I was expecting a somewhat hefty bill, but was surprised that it was the rate I would usually pay in the cheapest month. I scoured the details of old and new bills to see if I could spot any difference, and then suddenly I saw it: This month (as opposed to every other month) the meter reading had been “estimated” instead of “actual”. Not sure exactly what this meant, I placed a quick call to ConEd to ask about it, and was greeting with a message about “currently experiencing a work stoppage”. I took to the web and found out about ConEd’s lockout of 8500 workers and their fight with the Local 1-2 Union. The lockout started at the beginning of July, I am not sure how I missed this news, but I started scouring the web for more information about it. And all I could find, for the longest time, were articles about the lockout conditions and length, what the workers were doing, how management was coping, and the like. But it was like pulling teeth to actually find out what the meat of the dispute was even about! I got bits and pieces of info from ConEd’s website and statement on the matter, and a few small retorts from the Local 1-2 site, but not much. (Note to Local 1-2: it would be really helpful to your cause if you laid out in clear terms exactly what is being demanded of you and what you are asking for, clearly linked from your home page). As far as I can tell, ConEd, worried that the workers would strike without warning, initiated a pre-emptive lockout, and then canceled health benefits and wages during the lockout. This is a pretty shitty tactic, if you ask me. And with the numerous heat waves that NYC is experiencing, it seems a really risky time to attempt to go without 8500 workers. ConEd seems to be trying to squeeze concessions out of workers when it made over a billion dollars in profit last year (and its CEO received massive pay increases). I could understand if ConEd was hurting financially, or even if they wanted to reduce their outrageous rates to customers, but this is clearly not what is happening. They are simply trying to maximize profit at the top, the expense falling to those at the bottom. This is part of the reason I believe that certain industries (like utilities) should be publicly owned, and run in the public interest.
Sometime yesterday evening the water stopped in my new apartment. Gerardo told me that this sometimes happens, but the water usually comes back on in a few hours. Fast forward 15 hours to this morning and still no water, meaning no way to clean myself, do my morning business, or anything.
Thank god there is a Starbucks near the house, where I can get coffee, use the toilet and type this blog entry.