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Comcast Employees Counter Shady Management, Win $160K in Back Pay


December 20, 2011

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East Windsor, N.J., Local 827 stewards Brian Marshall, left, Mike Pfancook, Jorge Reina, Tom Brown and Mike Mullen

A grueling two-year battle against Comcast ended in victory last month for dozens of East Windsor, N.J., Local 827 members who won thousands of dollars each in back pay.


Forty-five Comcast service technicians working out of the Tom’s River facility are broadband certified ā€“ a special designation for employees who have passed rigorous company training sessions to be able to install and service broadband-based products. Known as “BBC” employees, these workers are entitled to a 5 percent hourly wage increase as part of their 2009 contract.

But the company failed to pay the BBC members the agreed wage, instead conflating the 5 percent increase with a separately negotiated wage hike that was also extended to other members of the bargaining unit.

Local 827 Business Agent Rich Spieler, who was heavily involved in the case, said:

The BBC members, like everyone else, were supposed to be getting a modest annual raise, then the add-on due to their advanced training and skills. The company decided basically to scrap that, saying the 5 percent increase should include the same raise that all the employees received.

A team of Local 827 stewards ā€“ including Brian Marshall, Mike Mullen, Jorge Reina, Mike Pfancook and chief steward Tom Brown ā€“ filed a grievance in November 2009 that led to an arbitration hearing. On Nov. 17, after hearing evidence presented by both sides, arbitrators ruled in favor of the workers, ordering Comcast to award back pay of nearly $160,000, or about $3,500 per BBC employee. About three-fourths of the techs at Tom’s River are broadband certified.

“The company’s actions leading up to this settlement were shady,” said Marshall, a steward

The company maintained that we shouldn’t get the combined wage hike, even though they’d already agreed to it and it was on paper. This and other actions just showed that they have no conscience or credibility.

Spieler said Comcast’s behavior in the matter mirrors the company’s long history of employing anti-worker tactics:

Unfortunately, Comcast thinks it can take cues from the playbooks of giant corporations like Walmart. If these workers hadn’t been unionized, they would have had no recourse. They simply would have had that money stolen from them by the company.

This is an absolute victory for the courageous members at Tom’s River. Our attorneys said they couldn’t have written a decision better than the one we got from the arbitrators. They clearly saw through the corporation’s lies and did the right thing for working families here in New Jersey.

The current contract covering nearly 60 workers at Tom’s River expires Jan. 13, Bargaining for a new agreement begins Dec. 21.

“This win for workers shows that, despite the odds, the IBEW is consistently there to advocate for fairness and justice in the workplace,” said International Representative Kevin Curran of the union’sĀ  Telecommunications and Broadcasting Department.

Organizing workers at the mostly nonunion Comcast has been fraught with challenges, including captive audience meetings, harassment and termination of pro-union employees. For more exclusive coverage, read “IBEW Steps Up Organizing at Comcast” in the July 2011 issue of the Electrical Worker.