Editor's Note: This is a tremendous decision and again demonstrates why Employee Free Choice is critical for employees and their workplace rights. CNN basically fired workers because of their union representation and blocked them from getting work at other CNN bureaus, in addition to taking this action to break their union. The NLRB judge used strong and harsh language in describing CNN's illegal actions. Yet it took nearly 5 years for these 250 workers to get justice. Full decision and order will be posted at www.nlrb.gov.
Orders immediate reinstatement of 110 workers
Washington, D.C. – The Honorable Arthur J. Amchan, an Administrative Law Judge of the National Labor Relations Board, issued a decision detailing how CNN America, Inc. ("CNN") violated the federally protected rights of more than 250 employees at the network's bureaus in Washington, D.C. and New York, N.Y. The Judge found that CNN committed substantial violations of the National Labor Relations Act when it terminated a subcontracting relationship with Team Video Services ("TVS") – whose employees were represented by NABET-CWA, Local 31 and Local 11 (collectively "NABET-CWA"). CNN also was found to have discriminated against TVS employees who sought to continue their employment at CNN's bureaus.
The Judge found that CNN discriminated against the TVS employees in a blatant attempt to avoid having to recognize and bargain with the employees' collective bargaining representatives. This decision is the culmination of more than five years of struggle by workers and their unions to vindicate their rights at the D.C. and N.Y. CNN Bureaus.
For more than 20 years, CNN subcontracted the technical work of broadcasting news and programming from its D.C. and N.Y. Bureaus to a series of subcontractors. The employees of these subcontractors – who were always represented by the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA – provided the video and sound for many of CNN's most recognized programs, including Larry King Live and Lou Dobbs Tonight. However, in 2003 and 2004, CNN terminated its subcontract with the last subcontractor, TVS, and announced that the network would hire its own employees to provide these services. CNN developed and implemented what it called the "Bureau Staffing Project," which was a series of procedures for the recruitment and hiring of these new employees.
In his 169-page decision, Judge Amchan found that CNN was a joint employer with TVS of the subcontractor's employees and, as a joint employer, the network was obligated to recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA over the decision to terminate the subcontracting relationship, as well as the decision to hire new employees. The Judge further found that CNN's Bureau Staffing Project was a sham, used by the network to discriminate against TVS employees in order to limit the hiring of those employees in order to avoid having to recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA. In reaching these conclusions, Judge Amchan thoroughly discredited all of CNN's witnesses and rejected each of CNN's defenses.
The judge's order calls for the following:
1. Reinstatement and full back pay for more than 110 employees. Training for those rehired, if necessary.
2. Recognition of the unions in New York and DC.
3. Dues to be remitted to the unions for those who were on check off at the time the contracts were cancelled.
4. Rescind, upon request, any departures from the collective bargaining agreements that occurred when the work was taken in-house.
5. Restore any bargaining work that has been outsourced since the end of the Team video contracts.
6. Posting of a notice at the two bureaus and the mailing of the notices to all employees at last known addresses who were part of the bargaining units when the contract was cancelled.
7. A "cease and desist order" to prohibit CNN from infringing on workers' rights under labor law in the future.
Judge Amchan's order is a comprehensive remedy that requires CNN to recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA, as well as reinstate more than 110 employees who were not hired as part of the Bureau Staffing Project, restore the employees' working conditions as set forth in the now expired union contracts except for improvements unless requested by NABET-CWA, and to make whole all employees for any loss of earnings and other benefits.
J. Carl Mayers, president of NABET-CWA Local 31/Local 52031, said, "We were very pleased with this decision. It is a great victory for all union workers and would not have been possible without the hard work and courage of the members that were terminated by CNN as well as those that remained and never gave up hope."
Ed McEwan, president of NABET-CWA Local 11, said, the decision by the ALJ "is a victory for workers, but one that took far too long to achieve because of our broken labor laws. Everyone in America should know that the network management we rely on to bring us the news are not above the illegal practices that they headline on a regular basis. From the very beginning we promised our members that 'we will not forget.' We didn't, and we're keeping up the fight until fairness is fully won."
The decision will be available on the National Labor Relations Board's website on Monday, November 24, 2008 on page entitled "ALJ Decisions."
Contact: Candice Johnson, CWA Communications, 202-434-1168