CNN has lost another round in the broadcast industry’s longest-running labor dispute – a battle that’s been going on so long that some of the workers wrongfully terminated by the news network 12 years ago have died before they could be rehired, as ordered by the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB has rejected the news network’s latest appeal in the case that began in 2003, when CNN decided to get rid of some 300 unionized technicians in its New York and Washington, D.C., bureaus and replace them with non-union workers. The union workers had been employed under a NABET-CWA contract through a subcontracting company called Team Video Services. But when CNN ended its relationship with the subcontractor, it rehired about 200 of the TVS workers – and another 100 new hires – without benefit of a union contract. The union then filed a complaint with the NLRB, charging CNN with unfair labor practices. The NLRB agreed and, finding that an “anti-union animus” had motivated its reorganization plan, ordered the network to rehire about 100 of the fired workers and to compensate the other 200 who’d been rehired for their lost union wages and benefits.
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CNN appealed, but an administrative law judge upheld the ruling in 2008. CNN appealed again, and this week the NLRB denied the network’s motion for reconsideration, ruling that CNN had been the workers’ joint employee and therefore was bound by the terms of the union’s contract with TVS.
“This company has dragged its feet every step of the way,” said CWA president Larry Cohen. “But after more than a decade of delays, CNN is finally running out of options. It’s time for CNN to follow the law and end the enormous damage to these employees and their families.”
The union noted that the case has dragged on so long that “workers have lost their homes, gone bankrupt and struggled to pay their medical bills. A number of their colleagues have passed away as this case slowly made its way through the NLRB process.”
Said Jimmy Suissa, who worked for CNN for 17 years: “No worker should ever have to wait this long to see justice. Now, again, we wait to see if CNN owns up or continues to stall. As a group, we will never give up until all our members are made whole.”
Calls to a CNN spokesperson were not returned.
As part of its ruling, the NLRB has ordered CNN to post a notice in the workplace informing its workers that the NLRB found that it violated federal labor law. The notice to its employees also states:
“Federal law gives you the right to form, join, or assist a union; choose representatives to bargain with us on your behalf; act together with other employees for your benefits and protection. … WE WILL NOT discharge you or refuse to hire you because of your prior employment with Team Video Services or your union activities and membership, or otherwise discriminate against you to avoid having to recognize and bargain with NABET Local 11 and NABET Local 31 (the Union). WE WILL NOT refuse to comply with the collective bargaining agreements between TVS and the Union at both the DC and the NYC bureaus, or change your terms and conditions of employment without first notifying the Union and giving it an opportunity to bargain. WE WILL NOT refuse to recognize and bargain in good faith with the Union as your exclusive collective bargaining representative by refusing its requests for bargaining over our decision to terminate the contracts with TVS and implement the Bureau Staffing Project and the effects of that decision on you. WE WILL NOT unilaterally limit the number of former TVS bargaining unit employees that we hire, or change your wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment, or the work that you previously performed, or any functionally equivalent work, without first bargaining with the Union. WE WILL NOT withdraw or eliminate any wage increase or other improved benefits or terms and conditions of employment established at the DC and NYC bureaus since the termination of the TVS contracts. WE WILL NOT contract out your work without giving the Union notice and an opportunity to bargain over these changes. WE WILL NOT inform you that we intend to operate a nonunion workplace, or that your employment in the TVS bargaining units or your union activity, affiliation, or membership disqualifies you from employment with CNN. WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner interfere with, restrain, or coerce you in the exercise of the rights guaranteed you by Federal labor law. WE WILL notify the Union in writing that we recognize it as your exclusive representative and that we will bargain with it concerning the terms and conditions of your employment.”
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