NLRB: CNN Must Pay Back Union Workers They Illegally Fired 10 Years Ago

A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling will force CNN to rehire over 100 union technicians at its New York and Washington Bureaus and compensate more than 200 others who have been incorrectly paid. The ruling will also orders the network to recognize the Communications Workers of America (CWA) as the bargaining representative of the employees.  

Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of CNN, will now decide whether to abide by the order or appeal to either the 2nd circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Washington D.C. and New York, or the 11th circuit, whose jurisdiction includes the location of CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta.  

According to NABET-CWA president Jim Joyce:

“[T]he National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America [NABET-CWA] is grateful for today’s decision by the National Labor Relations Board.  These workers have waited far too long for this measure of justice to finally be delivered and have suffered far too much as the result of these unlawful activities.  CNN should finally do the right thing now and immediately comply with the orders of the National Labor Relations Board issued today.”

The decision by the NLRB comes more than a decade after the original layoffs in 2003. The ruling also affirms the 2008 ruling of an administrative law judge. A brief history of the case is provided by the Hollywood Reporter:

The layoffs that led to the case were an instance of insourcing. Starting with the founding of its Washington bureau in 1980 and New York in 1985, CNN had used a succession of unionized outside contractors to operate electronic equipment at those bureaus, most recently a company called Team Video Services, whose employees were represented by NABET-CWA. According to the administrative law judge and the NLRB, the network exercised sufficient control over the employees that it was a joint employer of TVS’s employees, as well as a successor employer after the restructuring

In 2003, as news-gathering technology evolved, CNN decided it wanted more flexibility in the assignment of field technicians as “one-man bands,” i.e., combining audio and video tech functions; wanted to reduce overtime and use of freelancers; and wanted to merge the (union) broadcast engineering and (non-union) IT departments.

According to the NLRB, the network then terminated its contracts with TVS, told employees that there would be no further need for a union, refused to bargain with NABET-CWA, and announced a new hiring process, which the company then manipulated to favor the non-union applicants and disfavor the union ones, according to the NLRB. The board also found that the company declined to hire five of TVS’s most skilled technicians, all of whom were active in the union and held union office.

CWA representatives note that though they applaud the NLRB decision they hope Turner Broadcasting will not delay the case any further given:

“Delays in the case took a terrible toll on workers, who have lost their homes, gone bankrupt and struggled to pay their medical bills while they awaited justice,” said the union in a statement. “And this remediation comes too late for a number of workers, who have since passed away.”

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