Cablevision and CEO James Dolan Found Guilty of Multiple Violations of Federal Labor Law
Illegal Acts Include Retaliatory Firing of 22 Workers for Union Activity, Personal Threats and Intimidation from CEO James Dolan
Federal Guilty Verdict Clears Path to NYC Enforcing Labor Rights Provisions of Cablevision Franchise Agreement
New York, NY – A Federal Administrative Law Judge ruled late Thursday that Cablevision and its CEO James Dolan had broken multiple labor laws in an attempt to stop workers in Brooklyn and the Bronx from unionizing. The union that represents the workers, the Communications Workers of America, vowed to press the City to begin a process to bring the company into compliance with its cable franchise, and if necessary declare it in default of the franchise, for violations of the labor rights provisions of the agreement. The franchise requires the company to comply with Federal labor law.
The ruling stemmed from charges that two separate NLRB regional offices authorized against the company in April 2013: in Brooklyn for illegally firing 22 workers, bargaining in bad faith, and spying on workers, and in the Bronx for illegally intimidating, harassing and essentially bribing workers during a union representation election.
“Finally the NLRB has spoken in an unprecedented 300 page decision that outlines the deliberate law breaking of James Dolan. In any other jurisdiction he would face arrest,” said Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America. “Yet based on his past behavior Mr. Dolan likely believes his personal fortune and family control of Cablevision will allow him and Cablevision to avoid any real penalties. Since the trial Jim Dolan and Cablevision have escalated their attacks on their employees and their union. The NLRB needs to take immediate action. The City and State of New York need to treat Cablevision and all Dolan family controlled entities like the major law breaker that is documented extensively in this decision.”
The long-awaited decision is a major boost to the Brooklyn Cablevision workers' campaign for a fair and just contract. The decision comes after a trial concluded in December of 2013. In mid-November, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a third sweeping federal complaint against Cablevision, including personally citing CEO James Dolan, for violations of federal labor law at its Brooklyn unit. Cablevision was charged with illegally firing Jerome Thompson (a pro-union worker), conducting an illegal sham poll of workers following CEO James Dolan’s in-person visit designed to intimidate employees with a highly prejudicial speech, and illegally implementing changes in working conditions without bargaining with CWA. A trial on these charges is expected to begin shortly and the CWA is confident that Cablevision will be found guilty of these charges as well.
Cablevision fired Jerome Thompson for the comments he made about “slavery” in a private meeting conducted by the company to explain its new Optimum “branding” plans. In contrast, an anti-union worker who used foul and degrading language that included racial slurs against pro-union co-workers on Facebook was only given a slap on the wrist – Cablevision directed her to post an apology on her by then private Facebook page. At the same time, she was given expanded responsibilities.
Cablevision has run an illegal, anti-union campaign since its 300 Brooklyn technicians – the overwhelming majority of whom are Black and people of color – voted to become the first union workers at the company nearly three years ago. The company has refused to offer the workers a just contract, choosing to spend far more on executive compensation and union-busting attorneys than it would take to settle a fair contract. Cablevision even unlawfully granted raises of $2-$9 an hour – as much as $18,000 a year – to nearly 17,000 employees outside of Brooklyn to thwart unionization.
Recently, 42 of the New York City Council’s 51 members wrote to the Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication to express concerns that Cablevision may not meet city franchisee requirements and earlier this week, the City Council held a hearing on the topic.
For more information, visit www.thecablevision99.org.
Summary of Findings
The ALJ found that Cablevision unlawfully fired 22 employees in January of 2013 in violation of Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the Act. The ALJ ordered a backpay remedy for all 22 employees.
The ALJ found that a supervisor unlawfully directed employees not to engage in union activities in January 2012. The supervisor’s illegal direction violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.
The ALJ found that a company Vice President illegally threatened a bargaining unit employee telling him that unionization was futile in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.
The ALJ further found that Cablevision’s cancelling of training on smart meters without notice to the Union or giving the Union the opportunity to bargain over the meter training violated Sections 8(a)(1) and (5) of the Act.
Additionally the ALJ found that a notice sent to employees blaming the Union for the cancellation of the meter training violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.
The ALJ found that James Dolan, Cablevision CEO, violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act multiple times during his three speeches to the Bronx workers in order to thwart their efforts to unionize.
Specifically, the ALJ found that Dolan’s announcement of a wage increase for all employees in the footprint, was made for the purpose of halting unionization in the Bronx and elsewhere and illegally violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.
Further, the ALJ found that Dolan’s promise to improve benefits similarly violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.
The ALJ found that Dolan unlawfully solicited grievances from the Bronx workers and promised to fix these problems for the illegal purpose of thwarting the Bronx unionization effort in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.
The ALJ also found that Dolan’s statements about Brooklyn being left behind were illegal threat made by Dolan for the purpose of stopping the Bronx organizing effort in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.
Cablevision raises seen as union antidote (Crain's New York, May 2, 2012)
City Council fires warning shot at Cablevision (Crain's Insioder, Oct. 10, 2014)
Stand up for the Cablevision 99% (website)
CWA launches new and expanded apprenticeship and training initiatives, millions in investments to grow and diversify workforce ahead of nationwide broadband expansion