The battle for the hearts and minds of 264 Cablevision Systems field technicians and dispatchers in Brooklyn continued Thursday, after the cable company said a non-binding vote proves workers at the site no longer want union representation, while union officials claim the company is using strong-arm tactics to intimidate employees.
Cablevision workers in Brooklyn have been represented by Local 1109 of the Communications Workers of America since 2012, but the relationship has been a rocky one. Months after its Brooklyn workers decided to unionize, Cablevision sued the CWA in state Supreme Court in New York, claiming the union defamed it by making false statements regarding the cable operator’s service. In 2013, Cablevision said several employees had petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to decertify the union, a move the CWA said was made to cover up the illegal firing of 22 workers at the location for airing grievances. Cablevision, which said the employees refused to work, reinstated them about a month later.
Cablevision said that on Sept. 10, Brooklyn workers in an anonymous poll conducted by independent third party The Honest Ballot Association, voted 129-115 against union representation, the first time a clear vote on the matter has been conducted since 2012. Cablevision claimed about 93% of total workers at the facility turned out for the vote.
While the Sept. 10 vote will have no effect on union certification – only an NLRB sanctioned vote could do that – it throws another spotlight on what has been a hot button issue in the borough for years. Workers at the Cablevision facility have been without a contract since certifying the union nearly three years ago and the ongoing fight has drawn in politicians from around the area – current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the unionization efforts when he was Public Advocate for the city. The CWA supported de Blasio in his successful run for Mayor in 2013.
“For the first time in nearly three years, our Brooklyn employees have expressed their feelings about the CWA in a vote,” Cablevision said in a statement. “Yesterday, they rejected continued CWA representation. It is time for the CWA to respect our employees’ wishes and withdraw. In addition, Mayor de Blasio is repaying a political debt to the CWA and the Working Families Party, and is advocating the union’s agenda against the wishes of our employees. Mayor de Blasio should tell the CWA and his political friends to stop blocking our employees’ rights. We call upon the Mayor, the Working Families Party and the CWA to act promptly and allow our Brooklyn employees’ voices to prevail.”
Brooklyn is the only Cablevision unit represented by a union – the CWA unsuccessfully tried to unionize workers in the Bronx in June 2012. Cablevision has about 14,000 total employees.
While Cablevision claims a majority of workers want the union out, The CWA points to a June 2103 advertisement in the New York Daily News where 174 workers reaffirmed their support of the union and petitions individually signed by 189 workers sent to Cablevision CEO James Dolan two months ago stating their desire to stick with the union.
“The only election that matters happened almost three years ago when Cablevision workers voted 180-86 to join CWA in an election supervised by the Federal government,” said CWA District One vise president Chris Shelton in a statement. “Today’s [Sept. 10] vote was illegal because it was conducted under the cloud of multiple Unfair Labor Practices that are being adjudicated by the National Labor Relations Board and make it impossible to conduct a fair and free election. Under no circumstances would the NLRB permit this type of election to take place. No union observers were involved. There was no security in the vote count. This bogus sham was a waste of time and money. What’s really needed is for James Dolan to sit down and bargain a fair contract that includes equal pay with other Cablevision employees.”