Union workers at the cable company Spectrum are taking out a $500,000 ad buy pressing their case in what has stretched into the longest city labor strike in the last 30 years.
Local IBEW 3, the union representing more than 1,800 Spectrum employees, is trying to raise public awareness in New York about the plight of its workers and end the nine-month impasse. The ad buy, which began Wednesday, is set to run until Thanksgiving. It will feature a television commercial that will air in prime time on broadcast channels including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, during morning shows, nightly news, and popular shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “The View,” a union spokesman said. The ad will also run on cable networks News 12, CNN, MSNBC, FXNC and entertainment networks.
The 60-second television ad features a longtime Spectrum worker named Marvin, who tells the story of how his daughter needed an expensive medical monitoring device when she was young — a costly machine paid for by his union benefits. In the ad, Marvin says Spectrum is trying to cut his health care benefits by as much as $12,000.
“It makes me feel like the time that I’ve put in doesn’t matter,” Marvin says in the ad, which also features a photograph of Spectrum’s CEO, Thomas Rutledge.
The buy also includes a 30-second online ad, which will be featured on Hulu, YouTube and some On Demand programming. The ad, titled “Spectrum Wants More,” focuses on the size of Rutledge’s compensation package — which, at $98.5 million a year, makes him the highest-paid CEO in the country.
“We just want a fair contract. No more corporate greed,” the online ad reads.
The union tried to buy air time for the TV ad on Spectrum’s channels, such as popular local news channel NY1, but were refused by Spectrum’s ad sales team.
Spectrum spokesman John Bonomo declined to comment on the network’s refusal to run the ad, but defended the offer the company has put on the table for its workers.
“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,” Bonomo wrote in an email to POLITICO.
“This benefit package is in line with the medical, pension and savings plans enjoyed by more than 90,000 Charter employees nationwide. And this competitive offer will have a positive, lasting impact on employees’ standard of living and allows us to grow a well-paid, highly skilled workforce for the benefit of our customers,” he added.
The union workers’ cause has drawn sympathy from many of New York’s politicians. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer have all attended rallies and attempted to force the cable company to accede to workers’ demands. Politicians have also threatened various ways to revoke the company’s ability to operate in New York.
In October, Stringer, who serves on the city’s Franchise Concession Review Committee, raised questions about a customer data breach. In August, de Blasio threatened to revoke the company’s charter if an investigation prompted by worker complaints over Spectrum’s alleged use of non-local vendors yielded evidence it had failed to comply with terms of its franchise agreement.
In September, both de Blasio and Cuomo attended demonstrations in solidarity with the union’s workers.
At that demonstration, Cuomo promised workers he would review the Public Service Commission’s 2016 approval of Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and would try to take action against the company.