NLRB authorizes union complaint against Cablevision

Update: Cablevision comments responding to the NLRB action have been added below since this post was first published.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said this week it will issue a federal complaint against Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) for allegedly using illegal intimidation, harassment and bribery in efforts to stop Bronx-based employees of the cable TV operator for pursuing unionization activities.

The NLRB said it is giving Cablevision several days to seek a settlement. The Bronx complaint follows similar controversy related to Cablevision's alleged treatment of employees in Brooklyn who have been pursuing union activities since voting to join the Communications Workers of America union in early 2012.

CWA Local 1109, which is representing Cablevision employee union efforts in Brooklyn, said Cablevision illegally fired 22 workers who tried to meet with management about the slow pace of bargaining on Jan. 30, which in turn led to the filing of charges of unfair labor practices now pending before the NLRB. The union said, however, that all 22 workers have been returned to their jobs as a result of massive community and political pressure.

The CWA said the Bronx workers were inspired by their Brooklyn counterparts to begin their own unionization efforts, but that Cablevision management hired a union-busting law firm to help fight the effort, as well as allegedly taking the following measures, as detailed in the press release:

• In a speech to Bronx workers two days before the NLRB vote, CEO James Dolan personally threatened to deny workers job opportunities and training if they voted for the union.

• Dolan illegally sought to try to address workers' grievances and offer benefits to induce them not to vote for the union in a speech in February 2012.

• Cablevision illegally gave raises of $2 to $9 per hour--as much as $18,000 a year--to nearly 10,000 employees outside of Brooklyn, but not to the Brooklyn workers, in order to induce workers to vote against the union.

For its part, Cablevision issued the following response: "The CWA's allegations are not accurate and are part of the CWA's ongoing campaign to damage Cablevision's reputation. 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."

The company statement also said that Cablevision's Bronx employees voted overwhelmingly against joining the CWA union in a vote carried out last June, and more recently, Cablevision Brooklyn employees petitioned the NLRB seeking a vote to potentially de-certify the CWA union.

Like the mobile industry, cable was once virtually a union-free sector, but that has been changing in recent years. What has been happening in the Bronx and Brooklyn is part of what can be expected as a new labor era begins in cable.

For more:
- see this press release

Related articles:
Cox claimed its Brooklyn employees would ask the NLRB to de-certify their CWA status
The cable industry has been witnessing unionization efforts in recent years