Comcast, Oakland Still Sparring Over CWA

Despite threats by Comcast Corp. that it will withdraw a pending agreement that will provide Oakland, Calif., with $17.4 million in cash and services, the City Council there approved an ordinance Tuesday that will compel the company to ease its rules on unionizing.

Comcast notified the city Feb. 17 of its intent to reject a pending franchise-extension agreement if the city proceeded with the pro-union ordinance. The multimillion-dollar agreement would have repaid for franchise violations Comcast inherited from the prior system owner, AT&T Broadband.

The ordinance, approved by a 5-0 vote (two other councilmembers abstained, while a third recused herself, citing her husband's business relationship with the cable company), allows unionization by card check. That is, a majority of workers could qualify for a union by signing cards endorsing a union, rather than a longer campaign period culminating in an election.

Comcast spokesman Andrew Johnson said Wednesday that the MSO can't agree to the current form of the extension agreement. Attorneys are examining the new ordinance to see if it exceeds the city's regulatory authority.

Meanwhile, the Communications Workers of America blasted Comcast's attempt to "blackmail" the city, adding that the threat to spike the franchise extension represents a "new low in [Comcast's] war on workers."