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News :: Labor
Victory to Spectrum Strike! NY/NJ
15 May 2017
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Spectum Cable Strikers.jpg

Workers Vanguard No. 1111
5 May 2017

New York/New Jersey

Victory to Spectrum Strike!

We print below a leaflet issued by the New York Spartacist League on April 27, which has been distributed at IBEW Local 3 picket lines and strike rallies.

For five weeks 1,800 workers in the cable TV division of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3 in New York City and New Jersey have been on strike against profit-hungry Charter Communications/Spectrum. Charter Communications, the country’s second-largest cable company, recently swallowed up its rival, Time Warner Cable (TWC), and immediately took aim at its unionized workforce. For over two years, both TWC and Charter have refused to negotiate a contract with the workers. Now, in an attempt to gut the union, Charter wants to cut union medical benefits, pensions, shop steward representation and to replace union labor with subcontractors. By and large, there has been a capitalist media blackout of the strike, including by local news network NY1, which is owned by Charter/Spectrum. All working people across this city have a stake in this struggle! They hate the price-gouging cable providers, and many would like to see Spectrum beat back by militant strike action. A victory by the multiracial Local 3 strikers could be an opening for all of labor to fight back against the capitalists’ class war against workers, black people and immigrants in Trump’s America.

Spectrum has been recruiting out-of-state strikebreakers to carry out scab work to fix the mounting number of outages plaguing the company’s network. According to union picketers, Spectrum has been housing out-of-town scabs in non-union hotels in Queens, trying to avoid the example of last year’s Verizon strike when unionized hotel workers honored picket lines and got scabs thrown out of the hotels. At the April 5 strike solidarity rally, several unions spoke about the need for solidarity and honoring picket lines, and there have been union members from the CWA, hotel workers, TWU Local 100 and others joining the picket lines. But real solidarity must be built by mobilizing the independent power of labor on the picket lines to shut Spectrum down, not reliance on Democratic Party politicians and their lawsuits.

Much has been made by the IBEW tops of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit against Spectrum for not delivering “fast, reliable” internet service and Public Advocate Letitia James’s complaint against Spectrum’s non-compliance with the city’s cable TV franchise agreement. Relying on the capitalist courts to win the strike is a losing strategy. Banking on de Blasio to enforce the franchise agreement to prevent out-of-town scabbing is a dead end—even the city’s own lawyers say they cannot enforce this. It is the capitalists who call the shots when politicians make the laws—they are not “neutral” toward working people. During last year’s CWA/IBEW strike against Verizon, de Blasio sent in his thugs in blue to protect scabs. At that time under Obama’s administration, the NLRB got a federal judge to ban CWA pickets of hotels where scabs were being put up.

The capitalist government and bourgeois politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, are the enemies of working people. Democrats often posture as “friends of labor” but they are committed to serving Wall Street, the real estate moguls and the rest of American capitalism, a system based on grinding exploitation, racial oppression and imperialist war. That’s why fighting Trump’s attacks on workers and oppressed with capitalist Democrats is a losing proposition. The pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy has long promoted a strategy of trying to elect Democrats, which has resulted in one defeat after another for the labor movement.

Instead of preaching reliance on the government and capitalist political parties, what’s needed is a leadership that fights for the complete independence of the workers movement. In fact the great industrial unions were built through class-struggle methods such as mass pickets, sit-down strikes and secondary boycotts that defied anti-labor laws and court rulings in the massive class battles of the 1930s and ’40s. Our pamphlet Then and Now, which we have distributed on the picket lines, highlights three victorious strikes in 1934 led by reds, demonstrating that leadership is key.

It will be in the course of hard-fought class battles that a new, class-struggle leadership will be forged that can revive and expand the trade unions. Workers need their own party that fights for a workers government, a government that would expropriate the capitalist class, including the telecommunications industry, and build a planned socialist economy. When those who labor rule, the wealth of society would be used for the benefit of all. Victory to the Spectrum strike!
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