CNN has agreed to pay $76 million in back pay to settle allegations from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of violating federal labor law more than 15 years ago. The agency said in a statement that the settlement was the largest monetary remedy in its 84-year history. The amount is also more than the amount the agency collects in a typical year.
The labor law violation reportedly occurred in 2003 when CNN terminated the contracts of hundreds of unionized broadcast technicians that worked under subcontractor Team Video Services, which was providing audio and video services to the cable company’s New York and Washington bureaus. CNN then replaced the workers with nonunion labor to perform the same work “without recognizing or bargaining with the two unions that had represented the TVS employees,” says the NLRB statement.
The board claimed that CNN sought to operate as a nonunion workplace and made clear to the workers that their prior employment with Team Video Services and union affiliation “disqualified them from employment.” The agency alleged that CNN could be considered a so-called joint employer of the Team Video Services workers, meaning that it had legal obligations to them under labor law even though it didn’t hire them directly. The current standard allows a company to be deemed a joint employer even if it exercises only indirect control over workers employed by a contractor.
Under the terms of the agreement, CNN will pay the $76 million to the board, which will make payments to the affected workers. In return, the union said that it will withdraw all pending charges against CNN. The agreement will benefit about 300 camera operators, sound technicians, studio technicians and broadcast engineers.
Charlie Braico, the president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, said in a statement, “After more than 15 years, this settlement agreement finally delivers justice for workers who experienced serious hardship in their lives due to CNN’s union-busting practices. This incredible settlement in workers’ favor should send a very clear message to CNN and to other employers that union-busting is illegal and has consequences.”