CNN N.Y. to vote on NABET April 22

Employees of CNN’s New York bureau will vote April 22 whether to unionize under the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, ultimately bringing to a head the union’s more than six-year quest to gain a foothold in the cabler’s Gotham bureau.

The decision to set the April vote date came Wednesday after a meeting between CNN representatives, union executives and staffers of the National Labor Relations Board. In addition to setting the election, CNN representatives also said they will appeal an earlier NLRB decision to allow the vote, on the grounds that the union efforts are outdated.

A vote to unionize CNN’s Gotham office has been more than six years in the making (Daily Variety, Feb. 18). Back in 1987, more than 30% of the eligible employees signed the required forms to bring unionization to a vote. However, at that time CNN asked the NLRB for a ruling on exactly who would be eligible to vote. The NLRB didn’t render its decision until January 1993.

CNN New York bureau chief Ken Chamberlain, human resources rep Molly Boyle and legal counsel for the cabler have asked the NLRB to schedule the vote soon. They also said the company would appeal the NLRB’s decision to have the election.

CNN, a non-union shop, believes the staff and conditions at the company have changed so much that those who signed cards for the initial attempts are either not with the company or unlikely to want unionization at this time.

CNN’s appeal is expected by Monday. “The company continues to believe a union environment is not appropriate for CNN,” according to a memo to potential union members from CNN.

Bill Freeda, VP and grievance chairman for NABET Local 11, said he and other union exex have been meeting with select CNN individuals to feel out the situation.

“We try to find out who the respected people there are and then build a battle plan,” Freeda said.