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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's latest foray in labor relations — the tense talks over the lockout of 8,000 utility workers at Consolidated Edison — ended with a deal just as severe storms hit upstate New York and threatened power outages.
Mario Cilento of the New York state AFL-CIO labor organization credits Cuomo and fellow Democrat Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, for ending the four-week lockout Thursday. Silver held a high-profile hearing Wednesday in Manhattan emphasizing that public safety was threatened.
"He (Silver) really played a role. That hearing let a lot of the general public hear about this in terms of public safety," the labor leader told WGDJ-AM in Albany on Friday.
Silver also credited Cuomo's intervention.
"The workforce procedures implemented during the lockout were a cause for concern for many," Silver said Friday. "I congratulate Governor Cuomo for his critical role in concluding the negotiations, ultimately, restoring qualified and competent utility employees to the front lines during a heat wave and in advance of potentially dangerous storms."
Cuomo has had some success in this area before.
In February, the governor helped seal an agreement between the state Education Department and the state's powerful teachers union on a statewide framework for teacher evaluations. In the balance hung more than $700 million in a federal grant already received that was tied to a promise to create the measure intended to improve instruction. Cuomo threatened to impose his own framework in a budget bill.
In December, he brought taxi companies, drivers and New York City Hall together to settle a months-old dispute over service to the outer boroughs. The deal aided taxi service to the disabled by allowing livery cabs to be hailed in the outer boroughs underserved by yellow cabs and freed up $1 billion in taxi fees for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget.
Consolidated Edison President Kevin Burke and Local 1-2 President Harry Farrell said the latest deal wouldn't have happened without Cuomo. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Westchester County officials were also credited for bringing the sides together.
Cuomo had been scheduled to spend Thursday morning to make an announcement at the University of Rochester Health Sciences Center, then tour the Syracuse laboratory of Cooper Crouse-Hinds Commercial Products.
Instead, he called the negotiators for Consolidated Edison and its union to the governor's 38th floor offices in Manhattan. There, Cuomo pressed his concern that the lockout that left Con Ed operated by a small number of managers was a threat to millions of New Yorkers during a long hot summer.
By 12:30 p.m., Cuomo helped the negotiators arrive at a temporary agreement to bring 3,000 workers back during Thursday's storms. At the time, the storms were racing toward New York City and Westchester with the threat of hurricane-strength, heavy rain and large hail.
Western New York was already being hammered, something Cuomo knew as he monitored the emergency response. With that progress, they kept going. By 2:45 p.m., a deal was struck to end the lockout even after the storms cleared.