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Ruling May Signal End to Cablevision’s Union Fight

A federal administrative law judge ruling has Cablevision hoping its long battle with the Communications Workers of America could be nearing a resolution.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge Steven Fish found that Cablevision indeed violated a handful of labor laws but ruled it was not guilty of a key charge — a ruling that could help in its years-long fight to oust the union.

Cablevision and the CWA, which represents about 264 Cablevision technicians in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been duking it out ever since the union was certified in 2012. The dispute heated up in 2013 after Cablevision terminated 22 workers for what the company said was their refusal to work; the union said their termination was directly tied to their union activities. Cablevision has since reinstated those workers.

In a Dec. 4 decision, Fish ruled that the ouster of the 22 workers violated labor laws (he recommended they receive back pay), and agreed with charges that Cablevision supervisors had unlawfully directed employees not to engage in union activities. But the judge also refused CWA’s request to extend its certification for an additional year, adding that Cablevision had “engaged in hard but lawful bargaining.”

That seemed to encourage Cablevision, which hoped the ruling would lead to the NLRB allowing workers in Brooklyn to vote for or against union representation.

“Obviously, we are gratified that the CWA’s baseless charges that blocked an employee vote have been rejected by an NLRB judge, but unfortunately this does not clear the way for Cablevision employees in Brooklyn to vote for or against the CWA,” Cablevision said in a statement. “Instead, the CWA and the NLRB have continued to use baseless charges simply designed to prevent Cablevision employees from voting.”

CWA District 1 counsel Gabrielle Semel said a new vote would require that all unremedied unfair labor practices be satisfied, which could take a while.

Semel added that the labor violations could be a factor in whether Cablevision keeps its franchise agreement in the New York area, which requires the company to respect the collective bargaining rights of its employees. While not commenting on the likelihood of the city taking such action, Semel said she believes it should take notice.