Charter strike ramps up as union takes swipe at Rutledge’s $98M salary

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents around 1,800 striking Charter Communications employees in the New York area, is trying to keep the heat on the cable company with a new digital ad.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents around 1,800 striking Charter Communications employees in the New York area, is trying to keep the heat on the cable company with a new digital ad.

With the strike now in its seventh month, the union’s ad features Marvin Billups, a construction foreman in Northern Manhattan, and 29-year veteran of Charter—most of that time served ad Time Warner Cable, which Charter acquired for $49 billion last year. 

Billups recounts how his union benefits helped ease a medical emergency with his daughter when she was four. He also takes a dig at the lofty 2016 salary of Charter Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge. 

“If the CEO makes $98 million, how is our contract going to affect him?” Billups wondered. 

Providing a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Charter spokesman John Bonomo said, “By keeping its members out of work, Local 3 is denying our employees a generous compensation package that includes an average 22-percent wage increase—some employees up to a 55-percent wage increase—and comprehensive retirement and health benefits, including a 401(k) that provides a dollar-for-dollar match up to 6 percent of eligible pay.

RELATED: Charter picketed by NY Gov. Cuomo as strike approaches 6-month mark

The IBEW workers have drawn support from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both of whom appeared at a Brooklyn rally last month. 

On Monday, Governor Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, sent a letter to the state regulator, expressing concern about how the strike might be impacting cable service in the New York area. In July, Charter tentatively agreed to pay $13 million to New York regulators to settle charges that it wasn’t moving fast enough to satisfy conditions for the 2016 TWC purchase. 

“We have significant concerns about whether Charter-Spectrum is meeting their obligations under the merger agreement,” Mr. David said in a phone interview. “We’re always concerned about the workforce in New York. We want to make sure that our workforce is treated fairly, whether they are part of the union or not. But I think that is separate and distinct from the issue here,” he said.

In the letter, David questions whether Charter is making good on pledges to deliver broadband in areas without access. The attorney also speculates on Charter’s ability to execute on its promises, given the reduced labor force caused by the strike. 

“Charter provides an essential service to New York citizens, and these issues cause deep concern over its willingness to deliver those services as represented in its merger agreement. Please review these matters immediately and take all necessary action to ensure that New Yorkers receive the services and actions promised under the merger agreement,” David wrote. 

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