Cablevision’s Actions Illegal, Board Says
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Author: Steven Greenhouse
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The New York Times

The National Labor Relations Board said on Monday that it planned to file a complaint charging Cablevision with making illegal threats and offering improper inducements to its employees in the Bronx to discourage them from voting to unionize.

As part of the complaint, the labor board’s regional office for Manhattan and the Bronx is accusing Cablevision’s chief executive, James L. Dolan, of illegally telling the Bronx workers that they would be excluded from training and job opportunities if they voted to unionize. The board also said that Cablevision had improperly offered raises and improved benefits to its workers in the Bronx and elsewhere to deter them from joining a union.

Karen Fernbach, director of the labor board’s regional office, said those moves improperly influenced an election last June in which Cablevision’s installation workers in the Bronx voted overwhelmingly — 121 to 43 — against joining the Communications Workers of America.

The union has been battling Cablevision for more than two years as it seeks to organize cable workers in the New York metropolitan area. In January 2012, Cablevision workers in Brooklyn voted 180 to 86 to form a union, despite the company’s vigorous anti-union campaign, becoming the first of the company’s workers to organize in what is largely a union-free industry.

Ms. Fernbach said the N.L.R.B. would ask a judge to order Cablevision to desist from engaging in any future illegal activities should the communications workers seek another unionization vote in the Bronx. She said the board had given Cablevision time to enter settlement talks with the board and perhaps head off the filing of the complaint.

The labor board is issuing the complaint after the Communications Workers of America asked it to file charges against Cablevision.

Cablevision officials stressed on Monday that the complaint did not constitute a finding of wrongdoing. In a statement, Cablevision said that the “allegations are not accurate” and that the union’s assertions “are part of their ongoing campaign to damage Cablevision’s reputation.”

“Now,” the company said, “this matter will proceed to an administrative law judge and we look forward to an impartial hearing so that the facts can be fully understood.”

Ms. Fernbach said that as a remedy the labor board would ask a judge to order Mr. Dolan to read aloud, probably on video, a statement acknowledging that Cablevision had acted illegally and promising not to engage in such activities again.

Employers often criticize the labor board when it asserts that offering better wages and benefits is an improper effort to sway workers to vote against establishing a union. Employers say they are simply trying to do what workers want.

But Ms. Fernbach, citing numerous court decisions, said, “Employers’ beneficent conduct may have a coercive impact on employee free choice” on whether to vote to join a union.

The communications workers have asked the labor board’s regional office in Brooklyn to charge Cablevision with illegally firing 22 union members in Brooklyn in January when they were trying to speak with a company vice president. The company said they have since been brought back to work.

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