Growing tired of the inertia in collective bargaining talks between Cablevision and the company’s Brooklyn employees, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer stood with workers outside of Madison Square Garden to demand that Cablevision negotiate in good faith and reinstate a group of workers who were dismissed a week ago.
Last week, Quinn and de Blasio–both Democratic candidates for mayor–ventured deep into Brooklyn to stand with 23 Brooklyn Cablevision workers who were fired for allegedly refusing to return to their jobs after approaching management in an effort to push negotiations forward in allowing them to unionize. The demonstration went nowhere, and yesterday, standing in front of the Garden, which is owned and operated by Cablevision CEO James Dolan, all three officials threatened legal action against the company for its dismissal of the workers.
“Why does [Dolan] think he can affront our values by firing these workers?” de Blasio wondered out loud. “I feel sometimes that Dolan thinks he’s got a cloak of invisibility and we all aren’t seeing this. If you want some good will, the response needs to be to hire these workers back and sign a contract now, but if what he’s trying to do is make people think he doesn’t have the interest of New York City in mind, he’s doing a really good job.”
Cablevision yesterday reinstated four of the workers to their previous positions and a fifth worker was re-hired to fill an open position after the company reviewed the details and circumstances of their dismissals. Quinn said that this action was a clear indication that the company was starting to bend towards the workers’ demands.
Addressing the workers, Quinn said: “The fact that a number of the workers have already been brought back in, be proud of yourselves, ’cause they didn’t get brought back in because Jim Dolan found God, they got brought back in because you made them go back to work. It’s a sign that we are winning and we will win and we’re gonna explore every option we can to make sure we get to victory.”
According to Quinn and Stringer, some of those options may include exploring Cablevision’s franchise agreement to determine whether the company has violated it by not allowing the Brooklyn workers the right to bargain collectively.
“Getting a franchise agreement is an amazing gig for a company,” Quinn said. “It’s a ton of money, we don’t want to just give that without any oversight or appropriate legal infrastructure and part of the appropriate legal infrastructure is this collective bargaining.”
Bob Master, the political director of the Communications Workers of America District 1–the union that the Brooklyn workers voted to join–added that it is “absolutely clear” that Cablevision has indeed run afoul of this agreement by negotiating in bad faith.
None of the three officials nor the CWA have reached out to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to intervene in the dispute, although Quinn said that she has had conversations with the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, which oversees the franchise agreements for cable companies, to explore the next steps that could be taken.
De Blasio also said that he would be reaching out to some of Cablevision’s biggest investors to try and convey the gravity of its rigid stance against the Brooklyn employees. He said he would appeal to the investors by detailing how the company’s actions against the workers will affect its bottom line and investor confidence. He and Quinn added that they would look into discontinuing the tax breaks that Madison Square Garden receives as well.
Stringer, a candidate for city comptroller, added that he hopes the company will “restart” negotiations and “get to a place where there can be meaningful discussions.”
Cablevision says that the company has continued to hold bargaining sessions with the Brooklyn employees, with more scheduled in the coming weeks. Jim Maiella, a company spokesman, would not comment on the threat of legal action or de Blasio’s plan to reach out to company investors, instead pointing to a statement that explains the company’s position.
“Virtually all Cablevision employees enjoy a positive and direct relationship with the company, while the CWA union represents only a tiny fraction of Cablevision employees in one location,” the statement says. ”The CWA union is desperate for new members and dues, and they are not telling the truth to elected officials or the people they represent. The union has demonstrated a malicious intent to disrupt Cablevision’s operations to serve their own agenda, and Cablevision is taking necessary steps to combat the CWA union’s anti-worker and anti-consumer actions.”
Tags: bob-master, Brooklyn Cablevision employees, Cablevision, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, collective bargaining, Communications Workers of America, DoITT, James Dolan, jim maiella, labor unions, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio