Cablevision CEO’s Threats Prompt NLRB Complaint

Mike Elk

The NLRB says Cablevision violated the National Labor Relations Act in its attempts to deter its Bronx workers from joining the Communications Workers of America. (CWABrooklynVision )

Last June, Cable­vi­sion work­ers in the Bronx vot­ed against join­ing the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­i­ca by a land­slide, with 43 work­ers vot­ing in favor of union­iza­tion and 121 work­ers vot­ing against it. Now, the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board (NLRB) says that it plans to file a com­plaint against Cable­vi­sion, accus­ing the com­pa­ny of engag­ing in ille­gal con­duct in the lead-up to the election.

On Mon­day, the NLRB said that it had autho­rized the issuance of a com­plaint against Cable­vi­sion, hav­ing found that two days before the Bronx elec­tion, in a speech to work­ers, Cable­vi­sion CEO James Dolan per­son­al­ly threat­ened to deny job and train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to work­ers who vot­ed for the union. The NLRB also accus­es Cable­vi­sion of attempt­ing to deter work­ers from join­ing unions by exclud­ing Brook­lyn Cable­vi­sion work­ers —who vot­ed to union­ize in ear­ly 2012 — from the rais­es the com­pa­ny gave to thou­sands of non-union­ized Cable­vi­sion workers.

CWA said the NLRB com­plaint vin­di­cat­ed its belief that Cable­vi­sion has act­ed ille­gal­ly in order to pre­vent work­ers from join­ing the union.

Whether it’s inter­fer­ing with a fair elec­tion in the Bronx, or refus­ing to sign a fair con­tract in Brook­lyn, Cable­vi­sion’s behav­ior is despi­ca­ble and shame­ful,” said Chris Cal­abrese, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of CWA Local 1109 and the lead orga­niz­er in CWA’s con­tract cam­paign for Cable­vi­sion work­ers in Brook­lyn. There’s no excuse for any busi­ness to intim­i­date its work­ers in an effort to pre­vent them from exer­cis­ing their right to orga­nize and join a union.”

Cable­vi­sion has denied the charges.

The CWA’s alle­ga­tions are not accu­rate and are part of the CWA’s ongo­ing cam­paign to dam­age Cablevision’s rep­u­ta­tion,” Cable­vi­sion spokesper­son Whit Clay said in an email to Work­ing In These Times. This com­plaint is not a find­ing of any wrong­do­ing and now the mat­ter will pro­ceed to an admin­is­tra­tive law judge and we look for­ward to an impar­tial hear­ing so that the facts can be ful­ly understood.”

NLRB Region 2 Direc­tor Karen Fern­bach told the New York Times that the NLRB would ask a judge to order Cable­vi­sion to desist from engag­ing in any future ille­gal activ­i­ties should the com­mu­ni­ca­tions work­ers seek anoth­er union­iza­tion vote in the Bronx.” How­ev­er, before the case goes before a judge, the NLRB is offer­ing Cable­vi­sion a chance to reach a settlement.

CWA did not seem opti­mistic that Cable­vi­sion would allow the case to go to trial.

We pre­dict that James Dolan will try to sweep these charges under the rug by seek­ing a set­tle­ment of the com­plaint with the NLRB,” Cal­abrese said. He knows his actions were so egre­gious that no judge will find him inno­cent. If there was no guilt on his part, sure­ly an indi­vid­ual of his rep­u­ta­tion would have the courage of his con­vic­tions to stand tri­al and prove his innocence.”

Cable­vi­sion did not respond to a request for com­ment on Calabrese’s pre­dic­tion that the com­pa­ny would seek a settlement.

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Work­ing In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is cur­rent­ly a labor reporter at Politico.
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