Law and Politics

Labor Battle Could Cost MSG 2015 NBA All-Star Game

April 15, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco

Brooklyn, NY – The union representing 22 Cablevision technicians in Brooklyn who were bounced earlier this year after speaking out about stalled contract negotiations, says recent National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] rulings issued this week are not only vindication for workers, but also spell big trouble for company boss Jim Dolan and his vast sports & entertainment empire at Madison Square Garden. 

“This is a big deal,” CWA District One Organizing Coordinator Tim Dubnau told LaborPress. “This is not the run of the mill labor dispute. This is an egregious example of having contempt for the law. I think the NLRB was really taken aback by the severity of this. This is not some mom and pop organization. This is a major regulated company that gets its franchise from the City of New York to do business.”

The NLRB has informed the union that Cablevision will be charged with illegally firing the 22 Brooklyn workers, as well as refusing to bargain in good faith. The CWA was also notified that a suspect petition to decertify the union in Brooklyn will also be dismissed if the petitioners themselves do not withdraw it.

And although the 22 workers who were summarily dismissed in January have since been rehired, the fallout from that action could still impact both the way Cablevision continues to do business in NYC, and whether or not the National Basketball Association decides to bypass Dolan’s Madison Square Garden, and play the 2015 All-Star game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“We’re happy to see that there’s a serious effort underway now to take away the tax breaks that Dolan gets at Madison Square Garden,” Dubnau said. “And we’re happy to see that Community Board 5, as well as elected officials are saying that they shouldn’t have a lease in perpetuity at Madison Square Garden. We’ve also got thousands upon thousands of people demanding that the NBA not reward a union-buster with the 2015 All-Star Game.”

The NBA says it has not yet decided on where the 2015 All-Star Game will be played, and has no view about efforts to keep it out of MSG.

Nevertheless, a cadre of high-powered politicos including New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, as well a number of others, have all been flexing their considerable muscle on behalf of the “Cablevision 22” and the CWA.

“We understand that a lot of elected officials are now looking into whether or not [Cablevision] is in violation of its franchise agreement with the city,” Dubnau said. “This company is in big trouble. And Dolan is in big trouble at Madison Square Garden.” 

Cablevision, meanwhile, is calling the charges against the company “absurd,” and dismissing them as being part of a “CWA smear campaign” that is “factually inaccurate.”

Earlier this week, the NLRB also authorized the issuance of a federal complaint against Cablevision that charged the company last year illegally intimidated, threatened and essentially bribed workers in the Bronx to vote against unionization. 

“The NLRB charges back up what we’ve been saying since before the 22 workers were fired in January,” CWA Local 1109 Executive Vice President Chris Calabrese said. “There’s no excuse for any business, much less one that benefits from a city-granted monopoly, to egregiously violate labor law like this.”

So far, the NLRB determinations have not had an impact at the bargaining table where workers in Brooklyn are still waiting to obtain their first fair contract.

“It’s pretty clear that [Cablevision] is surface bargaining,” Dubnau said. “But we’re not going to stop until they bargain.”

The union is now hoping to secure backpay for each of the 22 Brooklyn workers who lost thier jobs in January.

“It's long past time for James Dolan and Cablevision to stop trampling on workers' rights, to stop their repeated and outrageous violations of federal labor law, and to come to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith towards a fair contract agreement for its Brooklyn workforce,” Calabrese said. 

April 14, 2013

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