Gov: NYC Utility, Union Strike Deal to End Lockout
Fearing that a severe storm could wreak havoc with New York City's power system, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intervened in a labor dispute between Consolidated Edison and its workers and brokered a tentative agreement Thursday after a weeks-long standoff.
"You don't want a storm hitting New York City without Con Ed being at full force," Cuomo said at a news conference announcing that an agreement had been reached.
Terms of the four-year agreement were not disclosed, since it must be taken back to the union's executive committee and the membership, as well as to Con Ed's board.
"It's a good deal I believe for both sides," Cuomo said.
The previous contract between Con Ed and Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America had expired June 30, with Con Ed locking out about 8,000 employees just hours later. Among the points of contention had been pensions and health care.
The lockout continued even as high temperatures stifled the city on several days. But Thursday night was expected to bring severe thunderstorms, with damaging winds and hail, to the city and larger region.
That pushed Cuomo into getting involved, and he brought the sides together. Initially, an agreement was reached for half of the locked out employees to return to work temporarily, for the duration of any emergency and any following repairs.
The sides continued talking after that temporary agreement was reached, leading to the tentative contract agreement later Thursday.
"Sometimes a storm has a silver lining. And I think this storm actually had a silver lining by bringing the parties together," Cuomo said.
He spoke at his Manhattan office after personally overseeing several hours of negotiations between Con Ed officials, including President Kevin Burke, and Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America.
"We never would have been able to get this done without the governor's intervention," said Local 1-2 President Harry Farrell. "All of my members will be going back to work ASAP."
Burke said Thursday was the first day that he was personally involved in the labor talks. He said Cuomo "has certain skills that help bring people together."
About 5,000 managers, former employees and contractors were keeping the power going for 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County during the lockout.