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Cablevision fires 23 employees for 'refusing to work'

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 3/7/2013, 4:46 p.m.

Cablevision owner James Dolan might be riding high with the Knicks, but some of his employees have been tossed by the wayside.

Last week, 23 Cablevision-Optimum workers were locked out and fired from their jobs. According to the Communications Workers Association, the workers tried to speak with a Cablevision-Optimum vice president about the company's lack of "good faith bargaining," and the vice president accused them of striking even though no one had refused to work. According to the CWA, workers who had already started their routes were called back to the garage in Canarsie to be let go.

"A small number of Brooklyn technicians refused to work Wednesday after several requests to return to their jobs," Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella told the local political website City & State. "Therefore, Cablevision took legal and appropriate steps to maintain adequate staffing and ensure its Brooklyn operations are not disrupted."

According to the workers, they were told that the site's vice president wouldn't be able to speak with them at the time they requested. According to Cablevision, they then told workers, who decided to wait for the vice president, to go on their routes, but the workers refused.

Over a year ago, close to 300 Brooklyn Cablevision technicians joined CWA Local 1109 with the support of community leaders and elected officials. In order to squelch organizing, Cablevision raised the salary of non-union technicians but hasn't discussed pay issues yet when bargaining with the organized workers. New York City Comptroller John Liu came out in support of the workers.

"Cablevision's firing of 23 union activists is outrageous--even more so for a company that operated through a franchise with the city," Liu said in a statement. "The company must reinstate the workers and start bargaining for a fair contract now." Last week, CWA filed unfair labor practice charges against Cablevision over their "bad faith" bargaining.

A video obtained by the Village Voice shows workers who had just been fired talking with management. In the video, management attempts to get the workers to turn in their credentials and leave the garage, but the workers tell the hierarchy that they're willing to work and declare their right to stay on the premises until a union representative shows up to review the action management's taken.

Workers took to the streets to protest the recent developments. On Jan. 31, workers set up shop outside a Cablevision building, joined by Councilmember Christine Quinn, Councilmember Jumaane Williams and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

"Cablevision has just brought a world of pain onto themselves," de Blasio said.

Williams got straight to the point as well. "This ain't Wisconsin," he said.

Mandela Jones said, "This is a pattern of a yearlong behavior since the workers decided to join the union last January. It was basically fought tooth and nail, and the company refused to give them a contract. The NLRB has issued complaints and Cablevision has settled. It's been the culmination of an anti-union movement to do whatever possible to not provide the workers a contract. Almost all of the workers are Black. Most of the workers who were illegally terminated are Black."