Cablevision, Union Dispute Heats Up

The labor dispute between Cablevision Systems and the Communications Workers of America escalated Thursday, after representatives of the Communications Works  of America disrupted a presentation by the MSO's vice chairman and chief financial officer Gregg Seibert at the Nomura Research Media & Telecom conference in New York.

According to a Cablevision spokesperson, the CWA representatives were escorted out of the conference by Nomura security and Seibert was able to proceed.

The CWA has been locked in a heated dispute with Cablevision as it tries to unionize the cable company’s workers. The union was successful in organizing Cablevision techs in Brooklyn in 2012, but workers in the Bronx voted down representation last June. When Cabevision claimed the Brooklyn workers later wanted to decertify the union, the fur began to fly. At one point, the union said the MSO fired 22 workers who were in favor of the union. Cablevison had argued that those employees had refused to work and that five have since been reinstated. The CWA has a complaint before the National Labor Relations Board regarding what it calls Cablevision’s anti-union tactics. Cablevision filed papers with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Thursday to block the NLRB effort.

At the Nomura conference, Seibert was interrupted by at least three people who claimed to be from the CWA during his presentation, according to a report on Shouts of “This will never end “ and accusations of greed and a refusal on behalf of Cablevision executives to negotiate a fair contract drowned out Seibert, who apologized for the disruption. An Internet audio feed of the presentation was cut off by Nomura after the outburst and was never restored.

The latest outburst is the second in what is becoming a common occurrence in the dispute between the union and the cable company. CWA representatives were removed from Cablevision’s annual shareholders meeting on May 23 after they disrupted the proceedings there.

In the D.C. Circuit petition, Cablevision is seeking an immediate suspension of the NLRB's pursuit of pending complaints against the company relating to disputes with the CWA.  The administrative trial in the case is currently scheduled to start in early July.

“Two different federal courts of appeals – the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit – have ruled that the NLRB lacks a valid quorum and thus has no authority to take action,” Cablevision sad in a statement. “Yet the NLRB is ignoring these rulings, and continues to prosecute various unfair labor practice charges against Cablevision – charges that are baseless but will nonetheless require that the Company – not to mention the taxpayers – devote overwhelming amounts of time and money to participate in a lengthy, pointless trial. We are calling on the D.C. Circuit to instruct the NLRB that it is not free to ignore federal court rulings and to halt the NLRB’s prosecution of Cablevision.”

In a statement, CWA District 1 political and legislative director Bob Master said Cablevision’s most recent action is in line with its behavior throughout the dispute.

"Rather than trying to make their case against charges of anti-union behavior before a neutral law judge, Cablevision has now resorted to trying to undermine the authority of the federal agency which reviewed the evidence and issued the charges,” Master said in a statement.  “Just more of the same from a company that seems to think that the law doesn't apply to them, and leaves workers and customers behind."