As talks continue, locked out Con Ed workers worried about families, future


| aaltman@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman
THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

Maurice camped outside the College Point Con Ed facility, withstanding the blistering midsummer heat not just for himself and his fellow locked-out workers, but for his four-year-old daughter.

The little girl, born with an intestinal atresia, was denied medical coverage when her parents took her to the doctor to receive treatment for her condition on July 2 – the day the lockout began and health benefits for employees and their families were cut off. According to Maurice, a pharmacy refused to hand over the girl’s medicine, which she takes daily along with IV fluids.

The girl’s insurance is suspended until a letter, supplied by Con Ed, is presented to her doctor. According to Maurice, who chose not to give his last name, Con Ed estimated it will take at least 16 days for them to hand over the document.

“We’re going through enough with the lockout,” said Maurice. “My main concern is my baby. We don’t need this.”

Sporting sunburns and looks of distaste, Maurice and 200 other Con Ed employees stationed themselves outside the northern Queens facility, protesting the utility giant’s decision to remove them from their jobs.

“It hurts,” said Joe Mussillo, who has worked for Con Ed for over 35 years. “We put in our all and we maintain the city.”

The union safety department worker, who joined the company when he was 18 years old, lamented the lockout, leaving thousands to stress over mortgages and medical bills. He feared for the security of workers’ jobs and the families who rely on them.

“All we want is a fair contract,” said Mussillo. “It’s what we’ve wanted from the beginning.”

Bill Schutt, a Vietnam War veteran who has spent 44 years working for Con Ed, believed his job was a “cradle to grave” occupation. Several years away from retirement, Schutt claims the company’s agenda is to “buy, sell and break the union.”

“This is the respect they show the people,” he bellowed. “They don’t like us. They don’t have respect for us.”

Turning to the group of picketers behind him, Schutt asked who wanted to go back to work.

Each of their hands shot up.

Con Ed officials and union representatives returned to the bargaining table at noon on Tuesday, July 10. According to Local 1-2 spokesperson John Melia, Con Ed responded with an undisclosed offer and union representatives are reviewing their proposal.

“If things progress, they’ll stay there around the clock,” said Melia. “There’s no time limit when you’re in the middle of these things. It really depends on the progress made.”

As of press time, Con Ed representatives would not say anything other than the talks had resumed.