About 282 technicians and dispatchers working for Cablevision Systems in Brooklyn N.Y., voted Thursday to join the Communications Workers of America, in what appears to be the first time employees of the Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO have unionized in company history.
The vote was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The workers will be represented by Local 1109 of the CWA. The CWA is the largest telecommunications union in the world, representing more than 700,000 men and women in the private and public sectors.
"We are disappointed by the outcome of this vote," Cablevision said in a statement. "In the worst economy in memory, Cablevision has not laid off a single technician, unlike our competitors who have cut thousands of unionized positions. In fact, Cablevision has created jobs. We value our employees and the work they do and believe the CWA has little to offer them. We are assessing our options."
The organizing effort began in October, with more than 70% of workers submitting union cards to the NLRB on Dec. 2, according to CWA. The vote was held on Jan. 26 at three different Cablevision garages in Brooklyn.
The CWA claimed that Cablevision tried to block the union organizing effort through a campaign of harassment and intimidation, requiring employees attend high-pressure, anti-union "captive audience" meetings, and pressuring workers to oppose the union in one-on-one meetings with managers.
Union organizing is quite rare in the cable industry. According to the CWA, only 2% to 4% of cable TV workers are unionized, compared to 90% of telecommunications workers. As a result, according to the CWA, their wages lag far behind that of unionized telecom employees.
The CWA claims Cablevision workers make about one-third less than their counterparts at telco Verizon Communications. Cablevision has countered that its salaries are highly competitive.
This was the first union effort at its cable unit. But former Cablevision properties - Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden - spun off into Madison Square Garden Inc. last year, employ union workers.
"We look forward to negotiating with them a fair contract for Cablevision workers," said Local 1109 Executive Vice President Chris Calabrese in a statement.
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