Brooklyn Cablevision workers rally to protest illegal firings

CWA Local 1109 in Brooklyn called for a mass rally on February 6 at Cablevision’s Brooklyn’s headquarters to demand the reinstatement 22 Cablevision workers, fired for exercising their rights under the company’s open door policy.

The Cablevision 22 along with about 30 of their fellow Cablevision technicians on January 30 asked to meet with Brooklyn Cablevision management to air their grievances about the company’s lack of a good faith effort to reach a first collective bargaining agreement with the workers, who voted to join CWA last year.

The workers believe that the company is purposely stalling rather than negotiating in good faith to demoralize workers in hopes that workers will vote to decertify CWA as their bargaining representative.

Rather that listen to the workers’ grievances, management declared the meeting request to be a strike and fired on the spot 22 activists, who led and are leading the union organizing and first contract campaigns.

“Cablevision has illegally failed to negotiate in good faith with its Brooklyn workers, illegally intimidated workers in other boroughs, and today brazenly violated federal law by firing workers for protected activity,” said CWA District 1 Vice-President Chris Shelton after the firings were announced.  “By singling out 22 leaders who were ready to work by terminating them, Cablevision is trying to take New York City back to the bad days when workers were openly exploited and mistreated by abusive corporations.”

The day after the strike, the fired workers and about 300 supporters including some elected officials gathered at Cabletown’s Brooklyn headquarters demanding another meeting with management, which once again refused their request.

The crowd chanted, “Let us in, let us in. . . ,” but Cablevision security personnel wouldn’t let the workers or their supporters inside.

“What happened yesterday was an affront to democracy in every way,” said Bill de Blasio, New York City public advocate and candidate for mayor, to the crowd. “It was disgusting, it was uncalled for, and it was unneccessary. There was no provocation.”

“(Cablevision) cannot violate the law; (Cablevision) cannot violate the franchise agreement; and (Cablevision) cannot misrepresent the truth and that is what happened yesterday,” said Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council and also a candidate for mayor.

Marlin, one of the Cablevision 22 said that it’s not unusual for workers to speak to management about grievances. “We’ve done it in the past plenty of times,” he said.

“We just wanted a five-minute meeting,” said Andre, another fired worker.

“We never said we wouldn’t go to work,” said Borris. “Some of us like myself saw the meeting wasn’t going anywhere, so we actually went to work.”

Borris was out on the job when a supervisor came out to meet him and took him to Cablevision headquarters where he was told that he was being “permanently replaced.”

“What they did was illegal,” said Borris.

“Cablevision doesn’t have any respect for its workers, has no respect for even the law,” said Eric, one of the fired workers.

CWA immediately filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board and expects a ruling soon.

In a statement released shortly after the firings, the CWA said that, “This wasn’t Cablevision/Optimum’s first violation of federal law. The company recently settled NLRB charges that it violated the Brooklyn workers’ rights, and CWA expects a board complaint to be issued on other acts of intimidation and harassment.”

In order to build community support for a first contract, CWA conducted a Cablevision subscriber survey and found that only 37 percent rated the company’s service favorably, while 25 percent rated it either “poor” or “terrible.” Among the 700 residents of Brooklyn who responded to the survey, 90 percent said that Cablevision’s rates were too high.

The report resulting from the survey, “Leaving Brooklyn Behind,” says that poor Cablevision service in Brooklyn is directly related to the workers’ effort to organize a union and bargain collectively.

The fired Cablevision workers are asking supporters to call Cablevision and demand that the company rehire the fired workers and to sign a petition demanding their rehiring.

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