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Comcast Workers Experience Gap Between “Pro-Employee” Rhetoric and Unfair Labor Practices


  New report documents questionable behavior and implications for telecom industry

June 23, 2004

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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Washington, DC -- Comcast complements its public image of business acumen and industry dominance with a professed "pro-employee" commitment.  However, its employees who attempt to form unions or engage in collective bargaining recognize a gap between the company's words and its actions. As Comcast corporate leaders harness technological advancements to expand their market share and increase profitability, employees across the country report that they must routinely perform more work without comparable growth in compensation, navigate unsafe working conditions, and endure the arbitrary application of unfair evaluation processes. When Comcast workers attempt to address their concerns by forming unions or negotiating new contracts, their efforts often are met with terminations, indefinite delays in contract negotiations that freeze wages and benefits for years, and the movement of jobs from union shops to non-union facilities.

Those are among the findings of No Bargain: Comcast and the Future of Workers' Rights in Telecommunications, a study by American Rights at Work, a new workers' rights advocacy group based in Washington, DC.  The report's conclusions are based on an exhaustive review of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) records and interviews with former and current Comcast employees.

With 70 percent of cable and broadband subscribers in the top 20 markets, Comcast is the undisputed cable industry leader.  The company employs 68,000 workers in the U.S. who serve customers in 35 states and the District of Columbia; and, grows larger and wealthier each year.  Since the mid-20th century, the telecommunications industry has earned a solid reputation of providing higher paying, semi-skilled jobs and offering long-term security to its employees.  Yet, as Comcast continues to dominate the market and expand its services, the industry's standing as a source of middle class jobs is at risk. 

"This report documents appalling practices that are routine at Comcast," said American Rights at Work Chair David Bonior.  "The cable giant is making enormous profits at the expense of its workers, and blocking unions that could prevent this exploitation from continuing."

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that full-time telephone workers, a highly unionized workforce, earn $48,110 per year on average, while cable workers performing similar duties average earn an average of $34,756 per year.  "Thanks to technological advancements, Comcast is poised to become a major provider of telephone services through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)," said American Rights at Work Research Director Julie Martínez Ortega.  "If Comcast deflates wages and degrades working conditions in the broader telecommunications industry, even more workers and their families will regress economically."

No Bargain includes cases of workers across the country and their personal experiences with the company. "It's hard when you can't negotiate a raise for three-and-a-half years, especially when you see Comcast giving raises in non-union shops," said Chicago-based Comcast worker Kevin Beallis.

"It's very hard sometimes," agreed former Comcast employee Stephen White of Silver Spring, MD, a suburb of Washington, DC.  "I was fired because a manager overheard me speaking to an employee about our plans to get started on the organizing drive.  They said it was due to poor job performance. But when we first started this union campaign, they tried to buy me out with a raise. They thought they could silence me."

According to No Bargain:

  • In the greater Chicago area, Comcast managers moved 195 jobs from a union-represented facility to non-union locations.  In Dallas, Comcast management moved 100 jobs. A total of 125 jobs were moved in Detroit.
  • In Pittsburgh, the NLRB issued a complaint against Comcast for illegal behavior that allegedly occurred the month before decertification elections at several worksites.
  • In Salt Lake City, Comcast gave a market increase in pay to all employees except those who were in union-represented bargaining units.  The union filed Unfair Labor Practice charges, and the NLRB issued a complaint against Comcast.
  • In the metropolitan Washington, DC area, the NLRB received six Unfair Labor Practice charges against Comcast this year for terminating five employees and discriminating against one for union activity.

"The employees of Comcast, like all other American workers, want and need access to forms of participation and representation in corporate decision making beyond those provided under the National Labor Relations Act," wrote MIT's Thomas A. Kochan in the No Bargain preface.  Said American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell, "We're calling on Comcast to live up to their promises and public praise. Respect the right of workers to form unions. Begin to bargain diligently with your union-represented workers. It is the right thing to do, an economically feasible thing to do, and, most importantly, an inherently American and democratic thing to do."

NOTE: No Bargain: Comcast and the Future of Workers' Rights in Telecommunications is available onlineDownload the report (PDF: 24 pages, 316 kb).


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American Rights at Work is a labor advocacy and policy organization dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers to form unions and bargain collectively.

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dpennington at americanrightsatwork dot org

202-822-2127 x118

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American Rights at Work is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers.


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