This morning a group of protestors, led by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, demanded that management at Cablevision’s garage in Canarsie come out and have a little chat about yesterday’s firing of 23 workers.
Cablevision says that the fired technicians were illegally striking and refused to work. The union says the workers were taking advantage of an open-door policy at Cablevision, which permits employees to voice work-related grievances with management.
The tension between the two sides is thick as the workers continue their nearly year-long quest to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the company. Early last year, some 280 Brooklyn Cablevision workers agreed to unionize through the Communications Workers of America’s Local Union 1109.
“A small number of Brooklyn technicians refused to work Wednesday after several requests to return to their jobs,” a Cablevision spokesperson told the Voice in a statement. “Therefore, Cablevision took legal and appropriate steps to maintain adequate staffing and ensure its Brooklyn operations are not disrupted.”
CWA spokesperson, Tim Dubnau, contends that the fired employees were ready to work, and that three of them were actually in route to their assignments when the alleged insubordination took place.
“They said over and over again that [they were] taking advantage of the open door policy. [They] wanted to meet with the vice president for literally two minutes,” Dubnau tells the Voice. “They wanted to send a message to the vice president that [they] were really upset with the fact that the company is not bargaining in good faith.”
About 70-80 workers were in the cafeteria of the garage seeking a meeting with leadership. They were informed that the vice president was busy and wasn’t available to meet at that time. After that, about twenty of them set out on their routes, while the rest decided to wait a little longer for the vice president to become available, according to Dubnau.
The workers say that throughout the waiting process they repeated their willingness to comply with any mandates from management to begin their routes. A short time later, the vice president finally came out–only to announce the firing of 23 technicians for their participation in the alleged illegal strike. The three who were already out in the field were called back into the garage, and then fired, Dubnau says.
Although it’s currently a their-word-against-ours situation, the workers say that they have video proof to back up their account of the incident. The union views the incident as another attempt by Cablevision to push back against their decision to unionize.
The Local 1109 Cablevision workers are the only workers directly employed by the company in the city to unionize, and the only workers who haven’t received the city-wide 2-9 percent hourly wage increases.
Last June, 76 percent of Bronx technicians voted against an attempt to form a union and join the CWA. But, according to Dubnau, the National Labor Relations Board is set to levy a complaint against Cablevision in the coming days, which accuses the company of illegally bribing the Bronx workers to dissuade them from unionizing.
“We’ve been bargaining now with Cablevision for a year. The company is illegally refusing to bargain in good faith with us,” Dubnau says. “In bargaining, all we want is parity with what is done throughout the system.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 31, 2013