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Brooklyn Downtown Star: Congress looks to Brooklyn as example of poor labor laws

The ongoing issue of Cablevision and how they treat their unionized employees was the subject of a Congressional forum last week in Brooklyn.

Roughly a year ago, Brooklyn Cablevision workers joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA 1109). Now that they are unionized, workers claim they are being punished for their decision.

Most recently, 22 union members were fired for refusing to work, according to Tom Dawes a union organizer with CWA.

Chris Shelton, vice president of CWA District 1, said Cablevision used the term “permanently replaced” instead of fired.

“Permanent replacement is a legal term which applies to striking workers in specific situations when management decides it will keep production going during a strike by hiring permanent replacements,” he said at the hearing, which was held at Borough Hall.

“Several of the [technicians] who were fired for supposedly not working were actually driving their trucks and had to be called back to the garage to be told that they were permanently replaced,” Shelton added.

One of the 22 unionized workers who was terminated is Marine and Iraq War veteran Clarence Adams. He said that the day of the terminations, over 70 workers approached management to demand that they come to an agreement with the union over a contract.

Then, 22 technicians were called into a conference room where they thought they were just going to meet with management to discuss a contract. Instead, they were fired.

“It came as a complete shock,” Adams said.

The forum was hosted by Democratic members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to examine the nation's labor laws, using the Cablevision controversy as a case study.

“I am sad to say that my experience has taught me our currently labor laws are a joke,” said Adams.

Congressman Rob Andrews of New Jersey said an official invitation was sent to Cablevision, however no representative attended the forum. The company did release a statement after the forum.

“The CWA union is continuing to misrepresent the facts and mislead the public,” the statement read. “Cablevision is continuing to negotiate with the CWA and to date 24 negotiation sessions have been held. We’ve already reached tentative agreements on more than 20 contract proposals and additional negations sessions will be held in April.”

“All over the country, collective bargaining is under assault,” said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn. “And we’re now concerned it’s under assault here in Brooklyn.”

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