CNN NLRB Case Update: August '08

August 4, 2008

Dear TVS/CNN Members,

The National Labor Relations Board’s Unfair Labor Practice trial vs. CNN and Team Video was completed on July 18, 2008. Although both sides have finished presenting witnesses and evidence from CNN’s Washington, D.C. and New York Bureaus, the record has not yet been officially closed.  Lawyers representing the NLRB will be appearing in US District Court in New York City this week in an effort to force CNN to hand over specific documents created by CNN’s in-house legal department in 2003. NLRB trial attorneys subpoenaed these documents last year and when the trial opened in November Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan ruled that CNN had to hand over the documents. CNN appealed his ruling to the board of judges in the NLRB’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. that handles appeals. In May the board upheld Judge Amchan’s ruling and ordered CNN to turn over the documents. As it stands today, CNN has failed to comply with both rulings which is why the NLRB is seeking an order from US District Court.

The Unfair Labor Practice trial was a monumental undertaking. While it is hard to say with certainty that this was the longest and most intricate trial in NLRB history, old career hands at the NLRB could not recall any trial that came close to this one. There were 81 days of testimony over the course of 8 months. 1,375 exhibits were introduced that entailed tens of thousands of pages. The transcript of witness testimony is close to 16,000 pages. There were at least six attorneys who represented CNN during the course of the trial. Team also had two attorneys who attended portions of the trial. This does not count the minions who served behind the scenes for CNN. Ordinarily, this array of legal talent assembled by CNN would give them a decided advantage. This was not the case in this trial. Nine different attorneys entered appearances on behalf of the NLRB General Counsel from four different offices. Four or five attorneys entered appearances for Locals 11 and 31. Of course, this was not a numbers game by any means. However, it was clear that the NLRB and Locals 11 and 31 more than held their own in the court room in numbers and talent. In these times of budget cuts faced by government agencies, the NLRB is to be commended for the resources they devoted to this case during the investigation and the trial.

The government has put on an impressive case. It has marshaled the facts that put us in a position to win. The stage is set for us to establish legal remedies for the wholesale violations of the law committed by CNN as they shredded the union contracts, fired scores of long time workers for no good reason other than to attempt to pack the unit with non-union workers, and discard the union in order to illegally implement new terms and conditions for the technicians at the Washington, D.C. and New York Bureaus. CNN has a lot to answer for.

There are many battles ahead of us before this case is resolved on a favorable basis and a full remedy is achieved. However, of all the hurdles the testimonial stage is by far the most important. We would never have gotten this far if it were not for the many former Team employees who took the witness stand to tell the truth. We are indebted to them. These are the heroes of this case, the workers who would not sit silently by and watch their rights for union representation and benefits be stripped from them.

They told the truth.

In Solidarity,

J. Carl Mayers

NABET-CWA Local 31