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Unions Ease Stance in N.Y.

Aug 23, 2004  •  Post A Comment

It appears there will be no serious disruptions by labor unions during the Republican National Convention in New York, which begins Aug. 30. However, CNN will be the target of informational picketing by NABET-CWA Local 11.

The union earlier this year filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board after CNN terminated a union subcontractor that had supplied technicians and other employees in Washington and New York and then invited employees to reapply for their old jobs. The local did not sign the new agreement.

“Our main goal is to educate the public and those attending about what CNN is doing,” said Local 11 President Ed McEwan, who conceded, “We can make things uncomfortable but we can’t shut them down.”

That means that there will be no reprisal against anyone who crosses the informational picket line by any of the 30 or so unions that work at Madison Square Garden. A number of the union groups have pledged to the city of New York that there would be no strikes or slowdowns related to the GOP gathering.

In a statement, the news network said: “CNN will be covering the Republican convention, from the Garden and around the city of New York, in the same comprehensive way our viewers saw from Boston a few weeks ago.”

One big concern about any labor action was that CNN is the pool video news organization for the convention, which means it will supply much of the audio and video coverage to other news organizations.

There have been reports that the unions would target Fox News Channel, which also is a nonunion shop in New York. Those threats had not materialized by press time.

Mr. McEwan said his chapter does not feel it has an issue with Fox News Channel. “In some locations, they are union,” he said. “In New York, they are not. They never were.”

Local 11 mobilization Chairman Gene Garnes said some “hit and run” picketing will start this week and build with the approach of the convention, which has engendered heavy-duty security measures that will make it hard for protest groups to get close to delegates and press covering the convention. “We want to be within sight of Madison Square Garden,” Mr. Garnes said. “A lot of it depends on if we can work with the police.”