CASE STUDY 1: CABLEVISION WORKERS VOTE TO UNIONIZE.
On January 26th 282 Brooklyn Cablevision technicians and dispatchers in Brooklyn voted to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Local 1109 in a union election administered by National Labor Relations Board, overcoming a vigorous anti-union campaign led by Cablevision. They are the first Cablevision workers to join a union. Cable TV is an overwhelmingly non-union industry while the traditional telecommunications industry remains highly unionized.
“I’ve waited 13 years for this,” said Cablevision technician Clarence Adams. “United, as members of Communications Workers of America, we now have the power to negotiate a fair contract that will give us the dignity and respect on the job we deserve.”
Cablevision workers are currently subject to arbitrary discipline and favoritism by managers, their health care coverage is inadequate, their workload is unreasonable and they have insufficient 401(k) retirement plans. Cablevision workers also make at least one-third less than Verizon workers, who are represented by CWA.
“This is about my son, his future, and the future of the Cablevision 99%,” said Cablevision technician Marlon Gayle. “We can now negotiate with management for a safer work environment, better healthcare, a more secure retirement and a salary that will allow us to support our families.”
Cablevision leads the Cable TV industry in “average monthly revenue per subscriber of $153.97.” And outgoing COO Tom Rutledge made $28 million in 2010, about twice the combined pay of the 282 technicians in Brooklyn. Rutledge’s $28 million is over 600 times the average technician’s pay. Despite $361 million in profits, Cablevision paid no federal income taxes in 2010.
As soon as Cablevision’s management learned of the organizing drive, they began a campaign of harassment and intimidation, including forcing workers to attend high-pressure, anti-union “captive audience” meetings, and pressuring workers to oppose the union in one-on-one meetings with managers.
“Over the past few months these courageous workers withstood a blistering assault on their right to form a union, said Chris Shelton, CWA District One Vice President. “Cablevision truly took the low road by pressuring workers with endless amounts misinformation, but these workers – backed by countless community leaders and elected officials – stood strong. Now we will bargain collectively for a contract that gives the Cablevision 99% equity and dignity on the job.”
The vote could signal a shift in the telecommunications industry. Only two to four percent of eligible cable TV workers are members of a union, compared to 90% in the traditional telecommunications industry. Despite the recent news coverage on the increasing skill levels required of cable workers, their wages lag far behind those of traditional telecom workers.
“Cablevision’s owners – the Dolans – have successfully negotiated contracts with unions at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden,” said Local 1109 Executive Vice President Chris Calabrese. “We look forward to negotiating with them a fair contract for Cablevision workers.”
Cablevision workers first contacted CWA in October. On December 2nd, over 70% of the 282 Brooklyn-based Cablevision workers submitted union cards to the federal National Labor Relations Board asking for union representation. The election was delayed until January 26th at the insistence of Cablevision’s union-busting attorneys at the law offices of Jackson Lewis LLP.
Instead of coming to the table and discussing the merits of union representation in the open, Cablevision forced workers to run a gauntlet of intimidation and misinformation simply because they wanted to exercise their democratic right to have a voice at work, and to achieve a measure of equity and dignity on the job.
Cablevision refused to participate in a public debate on the merits of union representation, moderated by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. A delegation of elected officials, including De Blasio, Speaker Chris Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Minority Leader John Sampson, and several Congress Members and Council Members, joined Sharpton in signing a letter sent to Cablevision CEO James Dolan, requesting a meeting to discuss ways in which the company can let the process unfold free of intimidation and harassment.