Cable technicians at Vision Pro, a Cablevision contractor in Brooklyn, recently voted to unionize. They voted 43-3 to join the Communication Workers of America, becoming the latest group of New York cable technicians to join CWA.
“This is a great day for Vision Pro workers and all cable technicians who want a voice on their job,” said Deane Crawford, a Vision Pro technician. “We are proud to join our brothers and sisters at Falcon (Data Com) and Cablevision because we are fighting for the same thing–respect and fairness.”
Falcon Data Com is another Cablevision contractor and Cablevision is a telecommunications and media corporation that provides cable service in the New York metropolitan area.
Brooklyn Cablevision technicians made news in January when they voted overwhelmingly to join CWA and became the first Cablevision workers to unionize. The cable industry unlike the telecommunications industry is largely non-union.
Falcon technicians in July voted 53 to 5 to join CWA. The vote came a month after Falcon workers conducted a wildcat strike to protest the firing of two workers for passing out union representation cards.
After the firings, Falcon workers set up a picket line that was honored by nearly all the company’s technicians. The strike ended a few hours later when the fired workers were rehired.
Only about 2 percent to 4 percent of the cable industry is organized, which is one reason why pay and benefits have lagged behind workers in the telecommunications industry, whose workforce is about 90 percent unionized.
According to Stand Up for the Cablevision 99 Percent, a website that tracks CWA organizing efforts among cable workers in the New York City area, cable technicians ”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.”
IBEW also won a recent union election in suburban Westchester County when technicians at Corbel voted 50-30 to join the union. Corbel is another Cablevision contractor.
In February, Corbel workers conducted a wildcat strike to protest cuts in pay rates for the installation of Cablevision’s “Triple Play Package.” The workers set up a picket line and elected a committee to meet with management about the rate cut.
The wildcat strike succeeded in reversing the rate cut, but the workers decided they needed more than an ad hoc committee to protect them from future cuts and to improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions.
The union victory came after Corbel conducted an intense anti-union campaign that the pro-union workers resisted by developing a strong communications network that could immediately respond to misinformation from the company.
Cablevision in the Bronx also conducted an intense anti-union campaign that succeeded in preventing its Bronx workers from joining their brothers and sisters in Brooklyn.
CWA leaders blamed the union defeat on company intimidation and the hiring of an anti-union law firm that organized a vote-no committee that ”waged an ugly anti-campaign against union supporters.” CWA has filed unfair labor charges against Cablevision over the campaign.
Still, the victory at Vision Pro has established momentum for more organizing efforts in the cable industry.
“When we won one election, they called it a fluke,” said Chris Shelton, CWA vice-president for District 1. “When we won two, they said it was a coincidence. But after three elections for union rights at Cablevision and its contractors, this is a movement that is not going away. Workers across the city are demanding fair wages, better conditions and above all–respect.”