CNN has agreed to pay $76 million to settle a back pay case involving union workers that marks the largest “monetary remedy” in the 85-year history of National Labor Relations Board.
The dispute began in 2003 when CNN fired a group of unionized subcontractors working as video technicians and in other technical and support roles.
The cabler then hired new, non-union employees for most of the same functions. That sparked a trail of litigation with National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians and Communications Workers of America, that has been winding through federal adjudication for more than a decade. The NLRB is the federal agency designed to protect the rights of employees to organize in the workplace.
The settlement will be spread among more than 300 people. The NLRB noted that $76 million is more than what it brings in during a typical year from back pay enforcement.
“The settlement demonstrates the Board’s continued commitment to enforcing the law and ensuring employees who were treated unfairly obtain the monetary relief ordered by the Board,” NLRB general counsel Peter B. Robb said.
CNN has waged a protracted paperwork war on the case. Ownership of CNN has changed hands since the incidents in question, passing from Time Warner to AT&T in 2018.
“After more than a decade of litigation, negotiation and appeals we are pleased to have resolved a longstanding legal matter,” a CNN rep said.
An administrative law judge first ruled against CNN’s position in 2008. The NLRB affirmed the ruling on behalf of the unions in 2014. That decision was taken to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that CNN had to stop refusing to negotiate with the unions. That panel — which featured Chief Judge (and former Supreme Court nominee) Merrick Garland and Trump’s future Supreme Court appointee Judge Brett Kavanaugh — sent the question of the financial settlement and other details back to the NLRB for sorting out.
The agency in its announcement noted that the sides then used a form of mediation — “Alternative Dispute Resolution” — to come to terms on the settlement.