N.Y. Cable Installers Vote Union after Wildcat Strike
May 30, 2012
In a third union representation election in three years, held in early May, workers at Corbel, one of the largest subcontractors installing cable for Cablevision in New York, have voted to join N.Y., Local 1430.
The 50 to 30 union vote at Corbel followed a February wildcat strike during which the 120 cable installers set up picket lines and elected a committee to meet with management to protest cuts in their rates for installation of Cablevision’s triple play (Internet, telephone, TV) package. The strikers succeeded in raising their installation rates. The work action was widely covered by New York media outlets.
“We are generally out on the street and aggressive in organizing,” says Local 1430 Business Manager Jordan El Hag, describing the first contact between his local and a group of Corbel workers at a donut shop.
Like hundreds of nonunion cable installers in New York, the workers had complaints about a lack of equity in their work assignments. With widely varying rates for different types of installations, their paychecks depended upon staying in the good graces of supervisors.
Omar Hutchinson, one of the technicians who participated in the wildcat strike, told an online blog that he earned only $600 for a 60-hour work week. Said Hutchinson:
Compounding the inequities, the employee contribution for medical insurance was so high that many workers opted out. Says El Hag:
The Corbel campaign was built from a database of phone numbers. Text message updates and house visits helped organizers answer the barrage of anti-union messages from Corbel, the largest Cablevision subcontractor in the Bronx, which also maintains a smaller presence in Westchester County. Installers rejected company threats that, if they organized, Cablevision would drop Corbel’s contract.
Local 1430 Lead Organizer Josh Gottlieb, who worked on the campaign for a year preceding the vote, says about 10 to 15 installers had previous union experience and helped influence their co-workers to vote union. With long work days, ending as late as 11:00 p.m., and installers often not returning to their shop after their shifts, meetings between workers and organizers were impromptu. Says Gottlieb:
The February wildcat strike directly followed a successful vote by 282 Cablevision technicians in Brooklyn to join the Communications Workers of America. Says Gottlieb:
Third District International Representative Brian Brennan, who assisted in the Corbel campaign, says more organizing efforts are kicking off at Comcast, Cablevision, Time-Warner and at installer subcontractor Mastec.