NEW YORK (MAY 20, 2013) — Labor leaders, workers and elected officials today slammed Con Edison for its shabby treatment of contracted security guards and cleaners at a press conference and rally outside the utility’s Union Square headquarters in Manhattan.
“Con Ed has a long history of being a bad actor,” Kyle Bragg, secretary-treasurer of 32BJ SEIU, told reporters outside a Con Ed shareholder meeting.
“Last summer, they locked out 8,000 unionized workers for more than a month, until Governor Cuomo intervened. After Hurricane Sandy, 1.1 million New Yorkers were left without power for days on end,” Bragg said.
“Despite these fiascos, Con Ed gave its executives over $600,000 in bonuses for their so-called “exemplary” work during Sandy. CEO Kevin Burke stood to get $315,000 alone, bringing his total yearly compensation to more than $14.8 million. Again, Con Ed backed down only after the Governor expressed his displeasure and called for an investigation. “
Bragg was joined by Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO; workers and Assemblyman Karim Camara, who is introducing a bill to have Con Ed’s contracted cleaners and security guards included in the state’s Prevailing Wage Law.
“It is a truly outrageous that Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke makes tens of millions of dollars a year, yet the corporation is content for contracted workers to be kept in poverty,” Alvarez said “Now is the time to fight for the rights and fair wages of these and all workers, living, paying bills, and raising families in New York City.”
Con Edison and other utilities are exempt from prevailing wage law. In 2010, the Legislature passed a bill including them in the law, but, under intense lobbying pressure from Con Ed and others, lame-duck former Governor David Paterson vetoed it in his last days in office.
Under the prevailing wage law, the starting rate for a security officer is $12.85. Currently, the contracted cleaners and security guards make as little as $8.50 an hour and don’t have meaningful benefits.
“Con Edison and its service contractors have not done right by these hard-working men and women who deserve to be paid the prevailing wage and to receive meaningful benefits,” Camara said. “That is why I introduced this bill and why I and my colleagues will fight to get it passed — and enacted into law.”
Patrick Whitehead, who has worked as a contracted Con Ed security guard for Griffin Security since 2008, makes $9.50 an hour as a captain at the utility’s East River Station, where an explosion occurred during Hurricane Sandy last October.
“I worked longer than my regular shift during that storm, and was not paid overtime,” he said. “Because that station is a primary power source, it is a sensitive location – so a stable, dedicated security staff is essential.
“I like my job, but there is no room for growth or significantly better pay and no benefits. I can barely make ends meet at my current salary. Receiving a better wage would help enormously – and I urge lawmakers in Albany to pass this bill and support the efforts of the hard-working men and women who help protect Con Edison and the public.”