By Gary Glennell Toms
Marvin Billups, a construction foreman with IBEW Local 3, spoke at a Harlem Community Board 10 meeting several weeks ago and alleged that Charter Communications, Inc, was engaging in questionable business practices that could place Spectrum customers in jeopardy.
In addition, Billups claimed that Spectrum is hiring technicians from Texas and other states to replace those on strike, which is illegal, and claims to have irrefutable proof.
"If these things weren't bad enough, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has a class-action suit pending against Spectrum for failing to provide high-speed service as advertised," said Billups.
On July 18, the National Action Network (NAN), in partnership with Spectrum, hosted a conversation about technology for economic mobility and social change. The two partnered on NAN’s Harlem Learning Lab, a free community source for students and seniors with courses in web design, graphic design, digital literacy and networking, among other digitally-focused programs.
According to NAN, technology has become a leading focus of its national platform and believes that ending the digital divide is a crucial part of the modern civil rights platform. Attendees included New York State Senator Brian Benjamin, Majora Carter, CEO of StartUp Box, and Camille Joseph, Charter Communications, Inc.
Billups and members of IBEW Local 3 also attended the meeting, which was held at NAN's national headquarters in Harlem. Billups voiced his concerns and questioned Charter Communications representative Camile Joseph about statistical data that was released by the company.
"We didn't show up with the intention of being disruptive, as some assumed. We just wanted to ask questions and have the community hear our side of the story. Period. I asked Ms. Joseph a question that she couldn't answer or was uncomfortable with, and that was clear to everyone in attendance," Billups said.
The strike has entered its fourth month, and the situation has reached critical mass for many walking the picket line. "City marshals recently evicted one of the strikers and his family, and another man, who's dealing with a serious medical issue, is on the verge of losing his medical coverage," said the foreman.
"We just want Spectrum and those involved in the negotiations to do the right thing. I've given 29 years of my life, and those on strike have devoted just as much time. Their reward? Some have been forced to go on food stamps just to feed their families. It's not right. All we want is to have this resolved as quickly as possible. We just want to go back to work."
On July 27, Mayor Bill de Blasio released the following statement via Twitter:
"This administration is concerned that Charter Communications may not be taking its franchise agreement with the city seriously. We have no choice but to conduct an audit to guarantee that Charter is in compliance, particularly with worker's rights provisions."