Last night, members of the Communications Workers of America Union distributed flyers calling Cablevision CEO James Dolan an “Ebenezer Scrooge” outside the annual holiday fundraiser for the Lustgarten Foundation, a pancreatic cancer charity supported by the company. Cablevision released a statement about the situation this afternoon calling the union’s activities at the event “shameful” and accusing CWA of numerous other misdeeds.
“This benefit was about curing pancreatic cancer. For the CWA union to interfere with this important effort is a new low for a union that has already tried to exploit Hurricane Sandy, intimidate employees and mislead other unions,” the statement said. “It is deeply offensive to not only Cablevision employees and customers, but also to cancer sufferers and their families.”
After a contentious dispute, Cablevision’s Brooklyn workforce voted to unionize with the Communication Workers of America. The union blasted out a press release touting the results. CWA says that they are the first Cablevision workers to join a union and that “cable TV is an overwhelmingly non-union industry while the traditional telecommunications industry remains highly unionized.”
Needless to say, union officials are extremely happy. “Over the past few months these courageous workers withstood a blistering assault on their right to form a union,” CWA District One Vice President, Chris Shelton, said. “Cablevision truly took the low road by pressuring workers with endless amounts misinformation, but these workers–backed by countless community leaders and elected officials–stood strong. Now we will bargain collectively for a contract that gives the Cablevision 99% equity and dignity on the job.”
Martin Luther King Day has passed us by, but Al Sharpton became the latest political figure to invoke the late Civil Rights hero in the fight between Cablevision and their employees in Brooklyn who want to unionize with the Communications Workers of America. Mr. Sharpton made his comments about MLK while speaking to Cablevision staffers yesterday.
At a raucous Martyin Luther King, Jr., Day rally yesterday, elected officials and union leaders slammed Cablevision and its CEO, James Dolan, for their anti-union policies. Their complaints stem from Cablevision’s efforts to dissuade its Brooklyn employees from unionizing with Communications Workers of America, including requiring employees to attend anti-union meetings. The speakers, standing before Madison Square Garden where the Dolan-owned Knicks were playing, largely connected the Cablevision unionization efforts to Dr. King’s efforts on behalf of civil rights.
“Dr. King, he fought side by side with workers, raising his voice in unity with theirs. Dr. King was a passionate advocate for workers’ rights all over the country,” said Dominique Sharpton, reading a statement from her father, Reverend Al Sharpton, off her phone. “Today, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory by standing with the workers of Cablevision, who are demanding respect and dignity and the right to join a union.”
Multiple candidates for citywide office in 2013, including possible mayoral contender Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, spoke at the event.
Demonstrating the traction that the issue has among elected officials, a plethora of prominent officials have signed a letter to the CEO of Cablevision, James Dolan critical of what they feel are anti-union efforts on behalf of the company. The list includes several top 2013 candidates in Comptroller John Liu, Speaker Chris Quinn, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, as well as other notable names like Reverend Al Sharpton, Minority Leader John Sampson, Congress Members, Council Members and more.
“We are very disappointed that Cablevision refused to participate in the public, union-management debate this past Wednesday, over the merits of union representation for your Brooklyn workforce,” the letter begins. “This debate would have provided an opportunity to bring conversations about joining the union out of the darkness of your ‘captive audience’ meetings and into the public where Cablevision, union organizers and workers could have an open discussion.”