Wildcat strike at New York cable company

About 120 non-union cable installers walked off the job last week and set up picket lines at the offices of Corbel Installations, a contractor that handles cable installations for Cablevision in the Bronx and Westchester, New York. The wildcat strike actions was taken to protest pay cuts announced by the company. Strikers and company representatives both said that the strike was inspired by the recent union victory at Cablevision.

“What happened today is an outgrowth of what happened at Cablevision,” Corbel’s attorney David Weissman told Crain’s New York Business.

Strikers contacted the CWA, the union that won the Cablevision election last month, and said that they wanted to join the union. CWA organizers went to the picket line and collected enough union authorization cards to request a National Labor Relations Board representation election.

Corbel workers walked off the job after the company told them that their pay for installing Cablevision’s Optimum Triple Play package (internet, telephone, and television) would be cut from $50 per installation to $35. Since the workers are contract workers, they have no health insurance or other benefits, and are on call seven days a week. The typical work week for a Corbel worker is between 50 and 60 hours a week.

“The bottom-line is that cable workers have been ill-treated in the industry and only savage union busting by the cable companies have kept wages so much lower than at the telcos,” said Nathan Newman, whose blog Tech Progress reports on technology policy issues.

Mark Sinclair, one of the strikers, told the Journal News, a local paper covering the Lower Hudson River area of the state, that his pay fluctuates between $8 and $9 an hour. “It keeps varying for us, and it’s not right,” Sinclair said. “If you are going to cut our pay, then I feel like the whole company should be affected, not just the workers.”

The strikers elected a committee to meet with management. As a result of the negotiations, Corbel agreed to pay the workers double for the day that they were on strike and to raise the installation pay to $40. The company also agreed to an $8 to $10 bonus for each truck stop.

After the strike, workers returned to work, but they still want union representation. Last year, the workers lost a union vote organized by the IBEW, which is currently appealing the outcome.

CWA organizer Erin Mahoney told the Journal News that the union would soon be filing a request for an election with the NLRB and that an election could take place within 42 days after the filing.

But the company has taken steps to stall the election. It filed an unfair labor complaint with the NLRB charging the CWA with inciting the wildcat strike, a charge that the union and the strikers both refute.

The company also contends that another union election can’t take place until one year after the last election.

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3 thoughts on “Wildcat strike at New York cable company

  1. Question: Independent contractors, eligible for NLRB protection or not? I ask because of conflicting opinions.
    If these workers have no current union contract, how can they be in violation of labor law? I could see this if they were under an agreement with a “no strike” clause. This would make for a “wildcat strike!”
    This is an issue of interest as “independent” contractors continue to be exploited in such areas as taxi drivers, FedEx drivers, Port of LA truckers and cable TV installers amongst others.

    • I mistakenly described the workers as contract workers. They are instead employees of company that contracts with Cablevision for cable installation. I have since corrected that error. Thanks for pointing this out. I didn’t mean to suggest that the strike was illegal when I called it a wildcat strike, only that it was a strike taken on the initiative of rank-and-file workers

  2. That’s disappointing as I am in the process of doing a story on Yellow Cab drivers.
    The action of those cable installers is still interesting as it was done by workers in what appears to be (but probably isn’t) a spontaneous action.

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