As Talks Resume, Con Ed Workers Rally Near Union Square

.Mary Reinholz

Chanting slogans and waving flags, including one that read “Don’t Tread on Me,” at least 1,000 demonstrators massed this morning near the headquarters of Consolidated Edison at 4 Irving Place to support some 8,000 unionized employees locked out early Sunday morning.

The utility company and representatives of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America resumed negotiations around noon today, assisted by federal mediators. Allan Drury, a spokesman for Con Edison, declined to give the location. Previous talks had been held in Rye, N.Y.

Meanwhile, demonstrations continued in the sweltering heat. “We’re here to show our support for the union,” said utility worker Damon Romanelli, 49. “I’ve been working for Con Ed only five years but there are guys here who have worked for them for 30 and 40 years and they locked us out. They want to cut back on our pensions and on medical. It’s not fair.”

.Mary Reinholz

One union man said the outpouring was unprecedented in his experience. “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Paul Albano, a business agent for Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America, noting that the demonstrators were standing on both sides of Irving Place, spilling over to East 14th Street and extending north on Third Avenue. “We’ve had supporters here coming from Occupy Wall Street, from the Transit Workers Union and the American Federation of Teachers.” He attributed the size of the demonstration to people contacting workers and friends by e-mail and on Facebook. One demonstrator locked out by Con Edison said he came from Suffolk County.

Police barricades stretched up to East 17th Street and Irving Place. “Better be safe than sorry,” said officer James Donovan around 11 a.m. when the crowds thinned slightly. He put the number of demonstrators at 1,000. Another officer said an ambulance arrived “because someone fell,” but said it wasn’t a serious injury.

.Mary Reinholz

One demonstrator carried a sign attacking “scabs,” a derogatory reference to the 5,000 management workers that have taken the place of unionized workers in maintaining electric, gas and steam service to the company’s 3.2 million customers.

The Daily News reported that earlier this afternoon, one of those managers was taken to the hospital after he was injured in a manhole explosion on the Upper West Side. On Thursday, a supervisor burned his head during repairs of a substation in Brooklyn. Hours later, elected officials including the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, urged the parties to reconcile.