Hearst hasn’t been the only media company on the National Labor Relations Board’s mind.
The federal agency that oversees workplace disputes has just approved CNN’s offer of $76 million in back pay for camera operators and technicians, who accused the cable news channel of firing them because they were part of a union.
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This sum, which brings the lengthy battle to an end and will be shared among 300 individuals, is the biggest in the NLRB’s 85-year history, adding up to more than what the agency collects on average in a typical year.
The dispute stems back to 2003 when CNN terminated a contract with Team Video Services, a company that had been providing CNN video services in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
CNN subsequently hired new employees to perform the same work without recognizing or bargaining with the two unions that had represented the TVS employees and conveyed to the workers in question that their prior employment with TVS and union affiliation disqualified them from employment.
This sparked a long legal battle, resulting in an administrative law judge ruling in 2008 that CNN’s actions violated the National Labor Relations Act.
It was not until 2014, though, that the NLRB agreed and ordered CNN to bargain with the unions and provide back pay. Three years later, a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the majority of the Board’s findings, and enforced the its order that CNN cease and desist from refusing to recognize and bargain with the unions.
After the case was remanded, the parties agreed to resolve their dispute through the Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program and this is the outcome.
Peter B. Robb, the NLRB’s general counsel, said: “The settlement demonstrates the Board’s continued commitment to enforcing the law and ensuring employees who were treated unfairly obtain the monetary relief ordered by the Board.”
Charlie Braico, president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, called the settlement “incredible,” adding that it should send a “very clear message to CNN and to other employers that union-busting is illegal and has consequences.”
A CNN spokeswoman did not immediately respond to request for comment.
In regards to Hearst, the NLRB has to decide when an election can take place as the media company did not voluntarily recognize hundreds of staffers at its magazine arm’s efforts to form a union. It is looking into a number of claims from both sides.
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