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CWA Could Lose Seven Comcast Units

Comcast Corp. should find out Nov. 18 whether or not seven of its Communications Workers of America bargaining units in greater Pittsburgh voted to decertify the union.

Six of those units voted last Wednesday (Nov. 12).

Those units include about 700 technicians in Allegheny and Washington counties. The final vote — a poll of 280 call-center workers — is due on Nov. 17.

Marge Krueger, administrative assistant for District 13 of the CWA, said she has been trying to negotiate a contract for the union workers since most of the systems were operated by AT&T Broadband. But since that MSO's merger with Comcast, "we've been on a path to nowhere."

The cable operator began fostering anti-union sentiments almost immediately in Pittsburgh, where the CWA has its largest Comcast bargaining units, Krueger contended. Comcast told workers last November that a profit-sharing bonus, normally distributed in March, would be given to workers early so they could use the money for Christmas. But then union workers were told they would not get the checks early, she said.

Shortly thereafter, decertification petitions began appearing on worker's desks, she said.

Comcast regional spokesman Brian Jeter said he would not comment on the union's specific charges. The cable company employs 60,000 people, only 3.6% of which have chosen to be represented by a union, he noted.

"Those numbers speak for themselves," he said.

Comcast certainly believes its employees should have the choice whether to vote for representation, he said, but wants them to have all the facts before they sign a union registration card.

Krueger said she expects the CWA to lose in some of the units. She estimated that in some shops, 30% of the workers never wanted a union. But Comcast fought hard for decertification, too, she added.

Human resources workers from other Comcast systems, which have successfully fended off organizing efforts, visited the Pittsburgh system and rode in trucks with workers to convince them to vote against the union.

Then, during the week of the vote, Comcast counter-programmed a Monday Night Football party for workers and their families against a long-scheduled organizing meeting. That day, workers were also confronted with 40 security guards in the workplace, which management explained were there to protect the plant. It looked like a labor dispute in the 1920s, Krueger asserted.

"They must have spent a small fortune on this," she said.

Krueger vowed to challenge some of the elections due to reports of anti-union electioneering by Comcast management at the Wednesday voting.

The National Labor Relations Board is overseeing the decertification vote.