Comcastic ain't so fantastic: labor rights for Comcast employees

by ,

[Reclaim the Media statement]

Comcast is the nation's largest cable company, with 21 million subscribers. Two years ago they were prepared to buy the entire Disney Corporation. Last year alone, CEO Brian Roberts received total compensation of $12.8 million. Yet when it comes to dealing with real people, they plead poverty, saying they can't afford to support community media, they can't afford to provide networks for local government services, they can't afford to let their employees negotiate for fair wages.

Comcast is on record as one of the most stridently anti-union companies in the US. A recent study from the American Right to Work Foundation calls Comcast "the Wal-Mart of telecom." In 2004, less than 5% of Comcast's national workforce was union-represented - a number that was falling rather than rising, due to the company's overt and ongoing campaign to decertify its employees' unions wherever it can.

The Communications Workers of America union charges that Comcast has adopted a policy of confrontation and scorched earth in its relations with its workers who seek to exercise their rights. Pro-union employees have been illegally fired, harassed, wrongly disciplined, denied promotions and benefits. It's a toxic workplace environment.

Two years ago in Beaverton, Oregon, Comcast broke its employees union, forcing employees to attend daily anti-union meetings, and even sending company mangers and anti-union workers to ride in trucks with the cable installers, urging them to vote out their union. And just last month in California, Comcast fired 10-year employee and Navy veteran, Will Goodo. "Goodo's offense," the CWA reports, "was testifying before the Oakland City Council and at a workers' rights forum last December about Comcast's unrelenting assault on workers in the Oakland system who wanted a union voice."

Meanwhile, according to the Right to Work study, paychecks for Comcast employees "are approximately one-third lower than at unionized telephone companies.. Employee turnover and the use of temporary workers ... are twice as high as the telephone industry average.... Only one in four locations where a union exists have been able to obtain a collective bargaining agreement."

Comcast's imposition of a non-union workforce hurts our local economy, and it hurts customer service by lowering standards. A 2004 American Customer Satisfaction Index survey found that Comcast - the nation's largest cable company - has the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country, including the Internal Revenue Service. A Google search for "Comcast" and "hate" I did this morning yielded 2,090,000 results.

In Seattle, as in communities across the country, the company has made it clear that including worker protections in the franchise agreement was a dealbreaker. But this franchise is accountable to the people of Seattle, and we should make Comcast's refusal to recognize their employees' rights a dealbreaker for us.

Accordingly, we urge the City Council not to approve this franchise without also providing enforceable legal safeguards for the free speech and collective bargaining rights of cable providers' local employees. The City of Oakland is attempting to do this by adding such requirements to city law. The Seattle City Council should work with local stakeholders to follow a similar course.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey