A slim majority of Cablevision’s Brooklyn Technicians elected against continued representation by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) in a “voluntary poll” Wednesday, but Union officials were quick to denounce the hastily-arranged “sham vote” as illegal, filled with voting irregularities and intimidation of technician employees, and yet another example of unscrupulous measures by Cablevision management over several years.
Tactics “Would Make Putin Blush”
“The conduct of this election would make Vladimir Putin blush,” said CWA District One Vice President Chris Shelton. “I am 100% confident that this fraudulent vote does not reflect the will of the Brooklyn Cablevision workforce and it will not deter us in our fight for a fair contract for one minute.”
Reports indicate that Cablevision CEO James Dolan, accompanied by a phalanx of security guards and the company’s Vice President for Human Resources, showed up at the company’s 96th Street garage Tuesday morning without prior notice and announced that the company had scheduled an illegal, impromptu vote for the following day.
Shelton claimed the phony vote was just the latest element of a multi-year, anti-union intimidation campaign that has included illegal mass firings, bad-faith bargaining, and other actions intended to break the union and discourage workers.
“Today’s vote was illegal because it was conducted under the cloud of multiple Unfair Labor Practices that are being adjudicated by the National Labor Relations Board and make it impossible to conduct a fair and free election,” Shelton added. “Under no circumstances would the NLRB permit this type of election to take place. This bogus sham was a waste of time and money. What’s really needed is for James Dolan to sit down and bargain a fair contract that includes equal pay with other Cablevision employees.”
Among the irregularities and questionable practices claimed were a failure to consult all parties regarding the details of the election, a failure to provide a list of eligible employees to the union in advance (so that both sides know who is voting and can try to iron out discrepancies about who is eligible before the vote takes place), a failure to allow all parties to place employee observers at poll sites (to prevent voter fraud), a failure to have private ballot boxes (to prevent intimidation), a failure to have the election conducted by neutral agents, a failure to have the ballots be anonymous and confidential once casted, and a failure to allow the parties involved to file objections to the conduct of the election.
Previous tactics included Cablevision suing the CWA for defamation and the alleged illegal firing of 22 technicians who wanted to state their grievances (the workers were later reinstated after negotiations).
Cablevision Claims A Fair Vote, Stemming From Workers’ NLRB Petition to Withdraw
In contrast, Cablevision hailed the decision by their technician employees, and dismissed and claims of voter irregularities or intimidation.
“For the first time in nearly three years, our Brooklyn employees have expressed their feelings about the CWA in a vote,” read a statement by the company. “Yesterday, they rejected continued CWA representation. It is time for the CWA to respect our employees’ wishes and withdraw.”
In January 2013, Cablevision employees in Brooklyn filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking for a binding, decertification vote to determine whether to continue with CWA representation. Since then, Cablevision claims, the CWA has repeatedly delayed contract negotiations and filed baseless claims in order to get the government via the NLRB to block that vote.
“This vote was the first time in nearly three years that Cablevision’s employees have had an opportunity to express their opinions about union representation privately in a vote,” the company’s statement continued. “The CWA currently represents one small unit of Cablevision employees — 264 individuals — in Brooklyn. Nearly 14,000 other Cablevision employees enjoy a direct relationship with the company,” implying the lack of union representation.
Nonetheless, Shelton claims the technician workers have repeatedly shown their interest in continuing with the union, and that the NLRB petition was circulated by Cablevision to its employees and signed onto only as the result of intimidation.
“The only election that matters happened almost three years ago when Cablevision workers voted 180-86 to join CWA in an election supervised by the Federal government,” Shelton said.
To support his claims, Shelton points to the fact that in June 2013, 174 workers reaffirmed their support for the union in an advertisement printed in The Daily News. Two months ago, 189 Cablevision workers sent Cablevision CEO James Dolan individually-signed petitions stating “we’re sticking with the union,” vowing to continue their fight for parity in pay and treatment with workers outside of Brooklyn.
The Honest Ballot Association (HBA)
Wednesday’s poll was conducted by the Honest Ballot Association (HBA), which holds itself out as an “independent third-party organization” and claimed the poll was fully anonymous.
“Cablevision will never know how any individual employee voted,” the company claimed. “The HBA assigned personnel to conduct polling at three (3) locations in Brooklyn, New York on Wednesday, September 10, 2014. HBA hereby certifies the polling was anonymous, fair, and accurate, and was conducted in accordance with best practices.”
HBA organization reported a 93 percent turnout with a final vote of 129 to 115 against continued representation by the union.
De Blasio “Repaying a Debt” With Union Advocacy?
A further wrinkle to all the wrangling involves Mayor Bill de Blasio. In a statement, Cablevision accused the mayor or “repaying a political debt to the CWA and the Working Families Party” in advocating the union’s agenda “against the wishes of our employees.”
Previously, the Mayor attended a non-public meeting and backed the Cablevision workers’ alliance with the CWA union and its affiliate, the Working Families Policy. Those organizations backed him in his mayoral election.
Zachary Carter, the Mayor’s Corporation Counsel, was previously director of Cablevisions Systems Corporation, but stepped down from the Board of Directors when he took a job with the administration.
“Mayor de Blasio should tell the CWA and his political friends to stop blocking our employees’ rights,” the company said. “We call upon the Mayor, the Working Families Party and the CWA to act promptly and allow our Brooklyn employees’ voices to prevail.”