Comcast Bashed as Union-Buster

Workers-advocacy group American Rights at Work is accusing Comcast Corp. of human-rights abuses in its dealings with -- or, they argued, "against" -- unions.

The group, chaired by former Michigan Democratic Congressman David Bonior, released a study Tuesday charging that the communications giant has routinely fired workers for trying to unionize, stalled contract negotiations to freeze wages and benefits "for years," and moved union jobs from acquired systems to non-union facilities.

When asked whether characterizing the alleged anti-union policies as human rights violations wasn't overstating the case. Bonior said no, pointing out that labor laws guarantee the right to organize. When a fired worker can't pay the mortgage or college tuition because he has been denied that right, Bonior says, it is absolutely a human rights violation.

Comcast pays less that SBC and AT&T, he says, "and if you try to organize, "you can get fired and a number have."

Bonior said the group had not presented its complaints or charges to Comcast before releasing them at a press conference Wednesday because "They know what the problems are."

The report cites problems in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and Washington, including what it says were National Labor Relations Board complaints against the company for illegal practices in Pittsburgh and unfair practices in Salt Lake City.

The report also includes anecdotal stories from workers. The group's web site was headlined Wednesday with the picture of a gray-haired grandmotherly woman and the words: Meet Verna. Fired for Organizing. She's waited 12 years for justice. Read her story.

American Rights At Work's board also includes NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), AFL-CIO President John Sweeney President, AFL-CIO; and Brad Whitford (Josh Lyman on West Wing).

Comcast spokesman Mike Weiss was unavailable at press time to address the specific allegations, but he told B&C on Monday: “We believe employees should have the freedom to chose whether or not they work in a union environment and we invest in people with the belief that our company can only be as strong as our work force. Comcast has been a pro-employee, pro-worker company for 40 years."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.