Network to protest labor judge's decision

In a frequently scathing decision, a judge has ruled that CNN acted illegally and discriminatorily in terminating a subcontracting relationship with a firm that provided technical services in the cabler’s New York and D.C. bureaus.

Arthur J. Amchan, an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board, ordered reinstatement with back pay for 110 dismissed workers. Amchan said the root of the trouble had been CNN’s desire to avoid bargaining with a union.

CNN denied the charges and said it will appeal the ruling to the full NLRB.

According to a summary of the decision released Monday, CNN had subcontracted out technical operations for its New York and D.C. bureaus for at least two decades. The last firm on subcontract was Team Video Services. Beginning in 2003, CNN began to sever relations with TVS, whose workers were represented by the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA. The net announced it would create its own unit that would screen and hire tech workers directly.

In his ruling, Amchan found that unit to be “a sham” used to limit the hiring of any TVS workers in order to avoid having to negotiate with the NABET-CWA. The cabler’s ultimate motive was “to achieve a nonunion technical work force in its Washington, D.C., and New York bureaus,” said the judge, adding that CNN’s “widespread and egregious” actions constituted a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Amchan seriously questioned the truth or accuracy of testimony from numerous CNN employees. For instance, in his 169-page decision, he subtitled a section “One of Many Examples of a CNN Witness More Interested in Supporting His Employer’s Litigation Strategy Than in Testifying Candidly.”

“Many CNN witnesses were not forthcoming about matters they were aware of,” the judge also noted. “For these reasons, I view all the testimony of (CNN’s) managers, hiring managers, recruiters and human resource personnel and other agents with a jaundiced eye and decline to credit their self-serving testimony.”

Ed McEwan, president of one of the NABET-CWA locals involved, said the judge’s ruling “is a victory for workers, but one that took far too long to achieve because of our broken labor laws. Everyone in America should know that the network management we rely on to bring us the news are not above the illegal practices that they headline on a regular basis.”

In a statement, the cabler said it “disagrees with the recommended decision and denies that it violated the National Labor Relations Act. CNN plans to appeal this decision to the full NLRB. Because an appeal will be filed, the judge’s recommended decision is not enforceable and is not binding.”

Labor disputes begin at the nearest NLRB regional office. If a preliminary review by the office determines that the complaint may have merit, an NLRB administrative law judge then holds a hearing to collect and review evidence and testimony.

The judge’s decision, initially a nonbinding recommendation, becomes final if no parties object to it. An objection, however, suspends the decision pending a review of the case by the full NLRB.

Parties have until Dec. 17 to file objections or appeals in this case.

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