March 26, 2013
By Stephanie West
BROOKLYN, NY – As the Cablevision fight in New York continues, significant hurdles exist for workers in achieving a first collective bargaining contract when an employer is intent on subverting the wishes of workers.
Union members had an opportunity to discuss concerns with legislators at a forum in Brooklyn March 25, 2013.
“Good labor relations promotes job growth. Bargaining in good faith promotes good labor relations. When there isn't good faith bargaining, we need a legal remedy such as binding arbitration that results in a first contract that is fair to the employer and the employees,” said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), the senior Democrat on the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee.
On January 26, 2012, Cablevision workers in three facilities in New York and Brooklyn voted to join the Communications Workers of America by a margin of 180-86. The NLRB certified the bargaining unit in February 2012. The parties have not settled a first contract more than a year later.
Most recently, in January 2013, 22 Cablevision workers sought a meeting with management to discuss lack of progress in the contract negotiations. While still waiting for the meeting, the workers were told by management they had been permanently replaced. Public outcry about the firings followed, and Cablevision has rehired the workers. Presenters at the forum attended by democratic member of the House of Representatives described tactics by the company that are designed to delay negotiations and intimidate workers.
“When Cablevision illegally fired my brothers and sisters, it was not about them. This hostile and illegal act was aimed squarely at those still at work. It was a crude but powerful message that was delivered loud and clear: Support the union, and your ability to feed your family and pay your rent is in danger,” said Gertrude Villegas, a technician at Cablevision. “My fellow techs in Brooklyn just want a decent wage and a secure job. We aren’t asking for anything that is unreasonable.”
“The right to collectively bargain brings workers to the table and gives them a voice. As the Cablevision case proves, Congress needs to protect employees by ensuring fair labor standards, worker training, workplace protections, and the ability to join a union if desired,” said Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee.
“Federal law is designed to protect the ability of the American worker to unionize, organize and bargain collectively. Throughout the country, however, in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, the right to collectively bargain is under assault,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffreies (D-NY). “We cannot let that happen in Brooklyn. Congress, as the custodians of our democracy, has an obligation to make sure that our laws are not blatantly violated. That is an obligation that we take seriously, and we will continue to be steadfast in this regard until the Cablevision situation has been resolved.”
Cablevision’s tactics are not unusual for a company that opposes workers’ rights to form and join a union.