Locked-out Con Ed workers to call on Feds for help
Consolidated Edison workers gather in front of a Con Ed building in New York, Monday, July 2, 2012. Unionized workers with Consolidated Edison in New York City will be picketing as their leadership plots their next move following failed contract talks and a lockout. / AP Photo/Seth Wenig
(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Unionized workers with Consolidated Edison in New York City picketed outside their company headquarters Monday as their leadership plots their next move following failed contract talks and a lockout.
According to CBS New York, about 200 union workers gathered in Union Sqare, some wearing T-shirts with the phrase, "If we go out, the lights go out."
A union spokesman said Harry Farrell, president of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America, on Monday will call for federal mediators to intervene to get talks started again.
Both sides said there are many issues on which they have not reached agreement.
"If it got to this point I can't see it being over in a couple of days," union worker Jim Barone, who has been on the job for 10 years, told CBS New York. "It's not a good feeling but it's the position we're in. You have to do what you have to do and make the best of it."
Union spokesman John Melia said Monday there was nothing new to report. He planned to issue a statement later in the day.
"We've been trying to get them back to the table since yesterday," company spokesman Mike Clendenin said Monday on "Good Morning New York."
Negotiations stopped just before 2 a.m. Sunday, a couple of hours after the existing contract expired. The impasse came as New York braced for more high temperatures that will increase demand for air conditioning among the utility's 3.2 million customers.
There were about 200 outages overnight, nearly all of which were resolved by morning, Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said Monday. He said management personnel were standing by, ready to address any problems.
Con Ed closed walk-in centers, suspended meter readings and limited work on major construction projects in New York after the talks broke down.
On Sunday morning, police set up barricades in front of Con Ed's headquarters near Manhattan's Union Square.
"This is crazy! There's a heat wave," said David Palomino, a facility mechanic who rushed to headquarters after finishing his early shift to find out what was coming next. He was one of few workers there; a union official said more picketing was planned for Monday.
"The fight has escalated" between the two sides, Palomino said, explaining that workers fear losing chunks of their pensions and benefits.
Temperatures were in the 90s Sunday and were expected to be in the high 80s and low 90s throughout the week.
Frank Allen is making sure the heat doesn't blow his power at home in upper Manhattan. "I turn off the air conditioner when I leave home," said Allen, 61, who was shopping in the Union Square neighborhood.
"It's not too good when the wires go out, and there's no one to fix them, Allen said. "The workers should get whatever they deserve -- just do it for us, Con Ed."
He has cats at home, but he's not worried leaving them without air conditioning. "They find their way to some cool corner."
And when he goes to work, heat is far from a problem: Allen works in a 33-degree space, in the refrigeration unit of the Fresh Direct food delivery company in Queens' Long Island City.
"In a heat wave, I wear long johns."
At an electronics and air conditioning retailer across the street from Con Ed, manager Ramon Nieves said there have been multiple power outages in recent years in his Queens neighborhood.
"I'm mad at Con Ed -- what are they thinking?" he said. "A lot of people could get sick in this heat."
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