Thursday, August 11

Owner of New York Knicks and Cablevision Clashes with Labor Board Over Unions

The owner of the New York Knicks is embroiled in a legal battle this month, after the National Labor Relations Board charged him with breaking federal labor laws.

When he’s not working with the Knicks, owner James Dolan serves as the CEO of Cablevision, a New York-based telecommunications company which is currently under scrutiny. He replaced his father as CEO in 1995 and also owns Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers Hockey Team and the MSG Network, which airs games from both teams.

The NLRB claims that Dolan threatened the company’s Brooklyn technicians with withheld pay increases if they didn’t vote themselves out of their union, the Communications Workers of America. Dolan is also accused of sponsoring a poll to determine whether the technicians wanted to leave the union, which NLRB claims illegally undermined the union’s ability to represent the workers.

This isn’t the first time that tensions have flared between the union and Cablevision. Technicians from the company have been trying to reach a contract to join the union for three years, and the labor board accused Cablevision of bargaining in bad faith just last year.

In a statement to the New York Times, Dolan argued that the NLRB took the union’s claims at face value without fully reading the response from Cablevision. “The NLRB has turned into a tool of Big Labor,” he told the New York Times.

Dolan also expressed frustration about the negotiation process. “For three years, our employees have been trying to have another vote,” he told the Times, “and for three years the CWA has been using the NLRB to block employees from voting.”

The union complaint stems from a speech Dolan gave on Sept. 9, in which he claimed he would help get the union to withdraw if employees voted against keeping it. The vote was 129 to reject the union and 115 to keep it.

The union claims that company officials promised individual workers better working conditions and benefits if they voted against retaining the union. Some workers claimed the vote was a sham and others believed they were being spied on when voting. Usually under federal law, workers can only conduct votes like this through the labor board.

“There are specific regulations against this type of conduct as abusive employers try these types of tactics,” said Gary Burger, partner and attorney at Cantor & Burger, LLC. “Employees should be able to unionize or not unionize without bullying from unscrupulous employers.”

Cablevision plans to contest the allegations of the board and even appeal them in federal court if necessary.

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