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As the summer heat seared New York City, tensions between the city’s major electricity company and its union reached a boiling point over the weekend. By Monday, a meltdown in the talks over pensions and benefits left thousands of Consolidated Edison utility workers suddenly frozen out of their jobs. The lockout, a classic anti-union tactic, had paralyzed both the negotiations and the livelihoods of some 8500 union members. But that afternoon, scores of locked out workers assembled outside ConEd headquarters near Manhattan’s Union Square to show they would keep the heat on their boss.
Mario, a 55-year old worker at ConEd’s East River Generating Station, wasn’t shocked by the lockout. “It’s corporate America. A lot of greed, a lot of arrogance,” he said. “Blame the unions, blame the workers, take their benefits away, and just keep increasing their bonuses.”
As of Monday, ConEd was operating on an emergency staff, with about 5,000 “managers” replacing the locked-out workers. The company promised to maintain “essential operations,” though fears of electricity breakdowns loomed large as scorching heat blanketed ConEd’s millions of customers across the five boroughs and Westchester. There were no catastrophes immediately following the lockout, according to local news reports, but outages hit some neighborhoods, and a substation fire in Brooklyn injured a manager.