Judge Sides with Cablevision in Bargaining Case But Finds CEO Violated Labor Laws

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An administrative law judge has rejected the claim by the Communications Workers of America that Cablevision failed to bargain in good faith in connection with a 2013 labor contract for employees in Brooklyn. But the judge also found that Cablevision CEO James Dolan and other execs violated labor laws in what the CWA termed a campaign to stop employees from attaining or retaining union membership.

The drawn-out proceeding has sparked heated rhetoric and legal jousting from both sides. On Thursday, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board delivered a 300-page decision that was championed as a victory by both sides. The recommendations of Judge Steven Fish will be sent to an NLRB board for final action.

The judge found that Cablevision had engaged in “hard but lawful bargaining” in connection with the labor contract. But as Cablevision workers in Brooklyn and the Bronx went through the process of trying to organize or vote on whether to decertify their CWA membership, actions by Dolan were found to have run afoul of labor laws.

Dolan’s remarks to a group of employees in the Bronx included statements that had the effect of trying to thwart efforts to unionize with a combination of warnings and incentives to persuade employees to steer clear of the CWA. The judge also found Cablevision violated a labor rule in firing 22 striking workers in Brooklyn in January 2013, although Cablevision noted that this finding was related to the timing of the notification to the workers rather than a question of Cablevision’s right to dismiss them.

“The judge found that Cablevision had every right to take action against the 22 striking workers but recommended that they receive back pay only on an administrative technicality,” Cablevision said.

The CWA’s charges against Cablevision were heard at a trial in December 2013.

“Since the trial Jim Dolan and Cablevision have escalated their attacks on their employees and their union,” CWA president Larry Cohen said. “The NLRB needs to take immediate action. The City and State of New York need to treat Cablevision and all Dolan family-controlled entities like the major law breaker that is documented extensively in this decision.”

Cablevision countered that the CWA is using NLRB petitions to prevent employees from holding a vote on whether to stick with the union — a process that was put on hold after the CWA accused the company of failing to bargain in good faith. And Cablevision described the violations by Dolan and other employees as “lesser findings” that have no bearing on the central issue of good-faith bargaining.

“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. “Instead, the CWA and the NLRB have continued to use baseless charges simply designed to prevent Cablevision employees from voting. In light of the decision, we call on the NLRB and the CWA to finally cease their efforts to block the vote that Brooklyn employees have twice petitioned for the right to hold.”

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