Vote Today: FAQ About Cablevision Workers’ Union Election

Today, Thursday, January 26th 282 Cablevision workers in Brooklyn, New York will vote in a National Labor Relations Board election for union representation.  The following are frequently asked questions and answers about this process.

Who is voting?

The unit consists 282 cable technicians and dispatchers based in Brooklyn.  The workers are predominantly African American and Caribbean.

What are they voting on?

They are voting on being represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Local 1109.

How are they voting?

The vote is by secret ballot, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  The voting will take place between 7am and 5:30pm on Thursday, January 26th at three different locations in Brooklyn.

Where are they voting? 

The workers will be voting at three Cablevision garages in Brooklyn (East 45th Street and Ave H; East 92nd Street and Ave D, and East 96th Street and Ave D).  The NLRB will be conducting the election.

When will results be available?

The votes will be counted after 5:30pm at 9502 Ave D (at East 96th Street).  The results will be available between 6pm and 6:30pm.

Why does this vote matter?

Cablevision workers want to join a union and negotiate a fair contract that will give them dignity and respect on the job.

Cablevision workers are subject to arbitrary discipline and favoritism by managers, their health care coverage is inadequate, their workload is unreasonable and they have insufficient 401(k) retirement plans.  Cablevision workers also make at least one-third less than Verizon workers, who are represented by CWA.

Meanwhile, Cablevision leads the Cable TV industry in “average monthly revenue per subscriber of $153.97.”  And outgoing COO Tom Rutledge made $28 million in 2010, about twice the combined pay of the 285 technicians in Brooklyn.  Rutledge’s $28 million is over 600 times the average technician’s pay.  Despite $361 million in profits, Cablevision paid no federal income taxes in 2010.

This vote is significant from an industry point of view.   Cable TV is overwhelmingly non-union nationally (only 2%-4% of eligible Cable workers are unionized, compared to 90% in the traditional telecommunications industry).  Despite the recent news coverage on the increasing skill levels required of cable workers, their wages lag far behind those of traditional telecom workers.

Cablevision is also one of the most combative, competitive cable companies around, and has beaten back several previous organizing attempts.  But, there is precedent for the Dolans bargaining collectively with their employees.  The musicians at the Dolan owned Radio City Music Hall are unionized and regularly negotiate contracts with the company – as do the workers at Madison Square Garden.

When did this process start?

Cablevision workers first contacted CWA in October.  On December 2nd, over 70% of the 282 Brooklyn-based Cablevision workers submitted union cards to the federal National Labor Relations Board asking for union representation.  The election was delayed until January 26th at the insistence of Cablevision’s union-busting attorneys at the law offices of Jackson Lewis LLP.

How has Cablevision management responded?

As soon as Cablevision’s management learned of the organizing drive, they began a campaign of harassment and intimidation, including forcing workers to attend high-pressure, anti-union “captive audience” meetings, and pressuring workers to oppose the union in one-on-one meetings with managers.

Instead of coming to the table and discussing the merits of union representation in the open, Cablevision forced workers to run a gauntlet of intimidation and misinformation simply because they wanted to exercise their democratic right to have a voice at work, and to achieve a measure of equity and dignity on the job.




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