Sep 19, 2013
Cablevision technician Clarence Adams, a member of CWA Local 1109, addresses lawmakers in Washington, DC.
Today Cablevision technician Clarence Adams testified before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions on the future of union organizing.
"Ten years ago, I put my life on the line 6,000 miles away from home in the name of protecting the basic rights of American democracy," said Adams, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the Iraq War and has worked as a Cablevision field technician in Brooklyn for more than 14 years. "I believed I was fighting so that the rights of every American would be protected. I never thought that I would see the day that I, as an American citizen, would have my basic rights trampled on and no one would do anything about it. I never thought that a big corporation could violate my rights and the government would let them get away with it."
Ever since Adams and his Cablevision coworkers voted to join CWA last year, management has refused to bargain with workers in good faith. In addition to intimidating and threatening employees, Cablevision even illegally fired 22 workers for simply attempting to use the company's "open door" policy to discuss the stalled contract negotiations.
Cablevision faces now several unfair practice charges at a National Labor Relations Board hearing in New York City this week.
Adams told lawmakers that Cablevision ultimately bowed to public pressure and rehired him and his 21 coworkers.
"When we walked back in the door, we showed our fellow workers that this is still a fight that we can win," he said. "But I have to say I am very, very upset about what happened to us and what has happened since we voted in the union. The NLRB has filed charges against Cablevision, and we still await justice. Cablevision threatened my livelihood by illegally firing me, and they have shown utter contempt for the rule of law. And so far there have been no consequences for them. Cablevision has hired over 50 lawyers, literally, to defend their unlawful actions. It is simply obscene for them to spend so much on lawyers, instead of sitting down to negotiate with their employees."
He added, "I just want a shot at the American Dream."
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) commended Adams for his "bravery and standing tall for working men and women." Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) called Cablevision's campaign against CWA, "a textbook example of what's become known as union busting."
"We have a broken system," said Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.).
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) pointed out that workers, like the OUR Wal-Mart members attending the hearing, have increasingly turned to new ways of asserting their rights in the workplace precisely because of the nation's dysfunctional labor laws.
"My constituents know that with Wal-Mart, a discussion of a union is toxic. They're trying to figure out how they can keep their job and how they get some respect, decent wages, and decent working conditions," said Miller. "And if you try to figure it out among your peers, you can get fired. But if you go the other route as Mr. Adams went, you spend a year trying to talk to your coworkers and get a union, and you win an election. But now you've spent 601 days trying to get the results of your election and get the benefits of the bargaining."
Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee, said, "We believe that you grow the economy through the middle class out. When Americans are engaged in collective bargaining, they are part of this effort to grow the economy. On average, union workers earn 27 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. They are more likely to have a retirement plan and health care coverage. These are the elements of middle class success."