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Labor Board Orders CNN to Rehire 100 Fired Employees

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered CNN to rehire 100 workers and compensate 200 others for a labor dispute that originated in 2003.

The 11-year dispute stems from CNN’s decision to replace a unionized subcontractor called Team Video Services, which provided the network with audio and video technicians, with an in-house nonunion work force in its Washington and New York bureaus.

The decision comes weeks after CNN’s top boss Jeff Zucker hinted at additional job cuts at the Turner-owned news channel, which employs over 2,000 people.

“We are going to have to do what we do with less,” he said in a memo to CNN employees. “As a result, that means there will be changes. No final decisions have been made.”

It’s unclear how the NLRB’s ruling will impact the expected restructuring at the news operation.

The Labor Board found “overwhelming” evidence of anti-union animus in CNN’s  failure to bargain with the union about the decision to terminate the subcontracts. The org also found CNN had implemented a hiring plan designed to limit the number of discharged TVS employees to avoid a successorship bargaining obligation.

A CNN spokesperson said, “CNN disagrees with the NLRB decision and we are evaluating our options.”

The Communication Workers of America said that CNN’s 2003 decision had amounted to a “phony reorganization scheme to get rid of unionized workers.”

The union also said the compensation for the 200 employees, who continued to work at the company without the benefits of a union contract, would be “on the order of tens of millions of dollars.”

The union also said CNN is required to restore any bargaining unit work that was outsourced since the end of the contracts. The company also must recognize the employees’ union and resume bargaining with NABET-CWA Local 11 and NABET-CWA Local 31.

“These workers have waited far too long for this measure of justice to finally be delivered and have suffered far too much as the result of these unlawful activities,” said NABET-CWA president Jim Joyce. “CNN should finally do the right thing now and immediately comply with the orders of the National Labor Relations Board issued today.”

The union noted that it had immediately filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB after CNN terminated the subcontracts. The case did not go to trial before an Administrative Law Judge at the NLRB for almost five years.

After 72 days of trial, the ALJ ruled in 2008 against CNN and found the network had engaged in “widespread and egregious misconduct” and had demonstrated “a flagrant and general disregard for the employees’ fundamental rights.” The ruling was appealed, leading to several more legal actions by the union.

The NLRB, an independent agency of the United States government, has  two key functions — conducting elections for labor union representation; and investigating allegations of unfair labor practices.

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