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UFT joins thousands for rally in support of Con Ed workers

They didn’t melt in the heat Dave Sanders

They didn’t melt in the heat: This group of UFT members was among the thousands who turned out in solidarity with locked-out Con Ed workers.

Tommy Rodriguez, a locked-out Con Ed worker, with his wife Naomi Rodriguez. Dave Sanders

Feeling the pain: Tommy Rodriguez, a locked-out Con Ed worker, with his wife Naomi Rodriguez, a special education teacher at PS 28 in Brooklyn, and their two children Aaron and Elisa.

UFT Staff Director LeRoy Barr addressing the crowd of thousands. Pat Arnow

UFT Staff Director LeRoy Barr addressing the crowd of thousands. 

The heat was scorching, but that didn’t stop several thousand union members — including a large contingent of UFTers — and community activists from turning out for a rally in support of the nearly 8,500 locked-out Consolidated Edison workers on July 17.

With drums and chants, the crowd gathered in front of Con Ed headquarters on 14th Street and Irving Place and marched to Union Square where they heard from labor leaders from throughout the city, state and nation.

LeRoy Barr, a UFT staff director, told the crowd that “Con Edison workers’ struggle is our struggle. They want what we all want: an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, the ability to feed their families and take care of them when they’re sick and to be able to retire with the honor, dignity and respect that they deserve.”

He vowed that labor would stand together and fight to ensure Con Edison workers’ rights.

The workers have been off the job since their contract expired at midnight and the utility locked them out at 2 a.m. on July 1.

For teacher Michele Ferraro, a UFT chapter leader at PS 204 in Brooklyn, the utility workers’ struggle hits close to home as her brother-in-law and cousin are both locked-out workers. “It’s just another example of how they’re trying to take away our collective-bargaining rights,” she said, comparing it to the city’s attempt to do away with seniority and tenure rights for educators.

Ferraro urged Con Ed to return to the bargaining table and stop hiring out-of-state workers to take over the work of locked-out union members. She noted that Con Ed earned $1 billion in profits last year.

Carlene Turner, a teacher at MS 144 in the Bronx, said that “we have to stand together to stop injustice and being locked out is unfair. They took away medical coverage, and these people have families.”

Surveying the crowd, locked-out Con Ed splicer Steve Dordal was moved by the support. “Thank you all for being here; it helps,” he said.

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