February 26, 2013
Over a dozen axed Cablevision workers out of a job since January 30, where shocked on Tuesday when representatives from the communications conglomerate told a panel of New York City Council people that none of them was actually fired – rather “permanently replaced.” (Read More And Watch Video)
“The company did not discharge those employees,” Cablevision’s Labor Counsel Jerry Kauff insisted. “The company simply exercised its lawful right to permanently replace – which means that those people are placed on a priority recall list.”
A handful of employees originally relieved of their positions last month after they sought a meeting with management to discuss the year-old collective bargaining process between Cablevision and the CWA, have, indeed, been "recalled." But none of the four representatives from the cable, internet and telephone giant testifying at the February 26, City Council hearing could say exactly when the rest of the axed workers might be returning to work. Only that it would happen "eventually."
“I can honestly say that I am disgusted with some of the lies that they told, and how they wouldn’t give direct answers,” said CWA Local 1109 Executive Board Member Nina Coban. “They’re not bargaining in good faith. It’s been over a year. If they were bargaining in good faith, there would have been movement on the negotiations.”
At various times throughout the marathon hearing, members of the questioning panel became demonstrably frustrated with their chronic inability to pin-down Kauff on what they deemed even the simplest “yes” or “no” questions.
Advocates for the excised Cablevision workers contend that the speed at which the company was able to secure replacements as the January 30 incident unfolded, as well as reports that two shop stewards were already locked out of their computer stations when they arrived at work that morning, indicates that management had already planned to take action well before the workers ever walked into the workplace seeking a meeting with their supervisor.
But when Kauff was pointedly asked about the January 30 incident, and when Cablevision actually decided to permanently replace the 22 workers, he declined to answer.
“It is not appropriate for us to get into the complicated facts of that day,” Kauff said. “Those facts are being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.”
Fired or “permanently replaced,” Clarence Adams still doesn’t know when, or if he’ll ever be allowed back to work at Cablevision. After sitting though the frustratingly-long hearing, he told LaborPress he was disappointed that none of the managers directly involved in the January 30 incident were present to testify before the panel.
“None of the people that were there that day where here to testify,” Adams said. “I find that to be very disappointing. Obviously, they basically tip-toed around the actual question; they didn’t want to respond to the fact that we were there simply to state that we wanted them to bargain fairly.”
According to Adams, at no time were any of his colleagues told on January 30 that they should go back to work, or face immediate dismissal.
“They never told us that,” Adams said. “They never said that anything like that was going to happen. I never had the suspicion that was going to happen.”
Conversely, Adams instead said that workers were under the impression that after being kept waiting around, they would, in fact, be able to speak to their manager once he became free. According to Adams, the manager entered and exited the assembled area several times on the morning of January 30.
“He basically never gave us a chance to speak to him,” Adams said. “He kept asking each of us, ‘What time do you go to work?’ As soon as he asked the question, he’d move on to the next guy. And then walk out.”
Supporters of the Cablevision workers gathered on the steps of City Hall just prior to the hearing, blasting Cablevision chief Jim Dolan, and charging his company with violating its franchise agreement with the City of New York.
“Following the despicable attempt to intimidate workers and franchise agreement violations, Cablevision-Optimum, its CEO James Dolan and his other business entities like Madison Square Garden, deserve no benefits for special permits from our city,” CWA District 1 Vice-President Chris Shelton said in a statement. “The [New York City] Council is rightfully examining what are clear franchise violations by Cablevision-Optimum. We should not be rewarding unethical, abusive and illegal behavior. Our city must reconsider the existing benefits James Dolan receives from taxpayers, including our subsidizing of his property taxes for Madison Square Garden, and refuse any further benefits.”
Public advocate and mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio is so p.o.’ed at Dolan and Cablevision, that he is calling on NBA Commissioner Roger Stern to relocate the 2015 All-Star Game – now slated for MSG – to the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, instead.
“We need to stop rewarding bad behavior,” de Blasio said. “That’s why we should make sure the 2015 NBA All-Star game is held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, not James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden. Mr. Dolan has crossed a line, and we need to send him a clear message that he can’t continue mistreating his workers.”