CNN Agrees to Record Settlement After Failing to Recognize and Bargain with Unions

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reported that CNN has agreed to pay $76 million in back pay to settle a dispute over a contract it had terminated with a video services provider. The amount of the settlement makes it the largest in the NLRB’s history, and represents more money than the NLRB takes in during a typical year. The back pay amount should benefit more than 300 individuals.

In 2003, CNN terminated a contract with Team Video Services (TVS), a company that had provided CNN with video services in Washington, D.C., and New York City. CNN then hired replacement employees but failed to recognize or bargain with the two unions that had represented the TVS employees. CNN then compounded the situation by informing workers that their prior employment with TVS and union affiliation disqualified them from employment.

According to the NLRB’s press release, in 2008, an administrative law judge found that CNN had violated the National Labor Relations Act and that CNN was a successor to—and joint employer with—TVS. In 2014, the NLRB ordered CNN to bargain with the unions and provide back pay. In 2017, a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals— including Chief Judge Merrick Garland and then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh—adopted most of the Board’s findings and ordered CNN to recognize and bargain with the unions. However, the court remanded the NLRB’s joint-employer finding and the issue of back pay to the NLRB for further consideration.

After the case was remanded, the parties reached a settlement through the NLRB’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program. General Counsel Peter B. Robb noted that “the settlement demonstrates the [NLRB’s] continued commitment to enforcing the law and ensuring employees who were treated unfairly obtain the monetary relief ordered by the [NLRB].”

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