A 34-year employee of Con Ed, Kenny, who asked to be refereed to only by his first name, was told by Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 representatives to apply for unemployment.
“I applied for unemployment. Hopefully I see my first check by the end of this week,” he said. “There are guys on the picket line that have families, mortgages, and two or three kids and if they're not suffering yet, they will be.”
Another employee who is “still in shock” is a mechanic from Astoria,who also requested that we not use his name. He had been working for Con Ed for only 90 days when the lockout began. He was recently married and his daughter was born this past Christmas Eve.
“I have to talk to my landlord and say I don't know how to pay my rent,” he said. His family is currently living off a small amount of money put away to buy a car, which is quickly running out. “It's depressing and sad. I thought working for Con Ed would bring stability.”
When asked if he can collect unemployment to pay his bills, he said “Even if I get the full amount it may not cut it for rent.”
His rent isn't the only bill that concerns this new father. After a few days of being locked out from his job with Con Ed, they sent him a notice that if he did not pay his $300 electricity bill they would shut off the electricity at his home.
Another picketer, an employee of Con Ed for eight years who asked not to be named, talked about the struggle his fellow locked-out employees face.
“We're all on food stamps and unemployment now,” he said.
Optimism is scarce among the workers.
“I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm just trying to provide for my family,” said the mechanic who had just been hired three months before the strike. “It's hard to strike and make ends meet. I feel rejected, like I'm not worth anything.”