Cablevision Sues CWA For Defamation

Cablevision Systems has filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County against a former employee, Local 1109 of the Communications Workers of America, and senior union official Christopher Shelton, claiming the union representing technicians and dispatchers at its Brooklyn, New York location knowingly and repeatedly made false statements about the cable company.

The union denies the claims.

“This is just another in a string of baseless and frivolous lawsuits from Cablevision, which, like all the earlier ones, will be dismissed,” Shelton, Vice President of Communications Workers of America District 1, said in a statement. “Rather than stop the outrageous behavior at Cablevision and pay Brooklyn workers the same wages as other Cablevision employees, [CEO] James Dolan is again turning to expensive lawyers to try to intimidate workers and their allies. It's time for him to sit down and negotiate in good faith with Cablevision workers.”

According to the suit, Cablevision claims Local 1109 made “a series of false and malicious statements” about the company in connection to the termination of Jerome Thompson, a former Cablevision technician who was terminated by the company on Aug. 20. Cablevision claims Thompson was terminated due to “a years-long history of deliberate disregard for company policies,” and was not racially motivated, as the CWA has claimed.

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in what has been an ongoing battle between Cablevision and the union, ever since workers at the Brooklyn office voted for representation in 2012Earlier this month, Cablevision held an informal vote that it claimed showed a majority of workers in Brooklyn don’t want the union any more. The CWA countered that Cablevision has used strong-arm tactics to try to persuade workers to drop the union and claims the majority of workers continue to want representation.

According to the most recent suit, Cablevision claimed Thompson violated company policies in a number of instances, including showing up for work improperly dressed, refusing to accept a new company headset and throwing it on a desk in an aggressive manner, hitting a Cablevision building with a company vehicle and denting its garage doors with his ladder, sideswiping another Company vehicle in an avoidable accident. After being issued a final warning in March, Thompson continued to violate policy, Cablevision claimed, including using a company phone for personal use – he allegedly racked up charges 25 times more than the average worker and used 4,303 minutes of talk time in April 2014, compared to the average worker’s 184 minutes of usage. Thompson also is accused of playing loud music in his car and disrupting company events, and referring to the company’s treatment of employees to “America’s historical treatment of slaves” at a company branding and marketing meeting.

After Thompson was terminated, Cablevision claims the union passed out flyers during an event on Sept. 18 hosted by Dolan – most likely a concert at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 18, where his band – JD & The Straight Shot – was opening for The Eagles. According to the suit, the flyers stated that Cablevision had fired an employee for “talking about slavery” and had rewarded another employee for using a racially insensitive term.    

 “The CWA union is knowingly disseminating false and defamatory statements in an attempt to negatively impact Cablevision’s business and damage the reputation of the company and its employees,” Cablevision said in a statement. “The CWA’s desperate campaign is designed to spread lies and misinformation to Cablevision’s customers, elected officials and the public at large. It is clear that the CWA will stop at nothing to advance its selfish interests and we are asking the Court to put an immediate halt to their unlawful and malicious activities.”