In a stunning defeat for “the most trusted name in news.”, the National Labor Relations Board ordered CNN to immediately re-instate 110 former union members who were fired when the cable network terminated a subcontracting agreement with a NABET-CWA represented company.
In a 169-page decision, the Honorable Arthur J. Amchan, an Administrative Law Judge of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that CNN engaged in “widespread and egregious misconduct, demonstrating a flagrant and general disregard” for employee rights.
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-Communication Workers of America – 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.
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” – CNN America.
This is an important victory not only for broadcast unions, but for all unions nationwide. Yet it took nearly 5 years for these 250 workers to get justice.
It’s another reason why the Employee Free Choice Act is needed.