Labor's foot in cable's door

As Speed Matters previously reported (Brooklyn Cablevision workers vote for CWA) Cablevision technicians and dispatchers in Brooklyn voted to join Local 1109 of the Communications Workers of America. This was a hard-fought and unprecedented victory in an industry that has long resisted unionization. As one report noted, "While the telecommunication industry is nearly 90 percent unionized, according to CWA only 2 to 4 percent of cable TV workers are unionized..."

The union and the workers knew from the start that when management engages in a protracted campaign, it nearly always wears the workers down. So, CWA tried new tactics, according to an article in In These Times:

"In the Cablevision organizing drive, CWA organizers focused first on building a strong shop floor committee of workers who wanted to join the union; the union collected pro-union cards from 70 percent of workers before even filing for an NLRB union representation election."

Then, CWA found public figures who would help support the workers and the organizing drive. For instance, "...prominent elected officials including several U.S. Representatives, the New York State Democratic Leader John Sampson, the New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn [joined by civil rights leader and broadcaster Al Sharpton] wrote a letter to Dolan demanding that the company stop its anti-union practices and agree to a debate."

In addition, "On Martin Luther King Day, Rev. Al Sharpton led a march and rally outside Madison Square Garden, which is owned by Cablevision CEO James Dolan. Occupy Wall Street activists and elected officials from across the city joined in, standing with Cablevision workers and their fight for a union."

The union then went to the media, garnering articles in The New York Times and elsewhere. Then, it set up a website using videos that featured the workers themselves. And, CWA engaged the new media, taking out web ads. "The web ads and PR blitz helped generate an unusual level of public media attention to the workers. This helped make it difficult for Cablevision to engage in extreme acts of unionbusting like firing workers."

As In These Times concluded:

"By using a combination of old-school shop floor organizing, strong support from elected officials and a traditional public relations and new media blitz, CWA proved that while organizing in the private sector can often be difficult, if done with a smart strategy unions can overcome employers' anti-union campaigns."

Brooklyn Cablevision workers vote for CWA (Speed Matters, Jan. 27, 2012)

With Cablevision Victory, CWA Wins Toehold in Cable TV Industry (In These Times, Jan. 27, 2012)

Prominent Elected Officials Criticize Cablevision on Union Policy (, Jan. 13, 2012)

Cablevision workers' campaign wins tremendous public support
(CWA press release, Jan. 26, 2012)

Stand Up for the Cablevision 99%
(workers' website)