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Cablevision Sues Union for Phone Pranks

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CN) - Cablevision sued a union and its local, claiming they criminally conspired to harass the Cablevision CEO by flooding his office phone number with calls, "disrupting Cablevision business."

Cablevision Systems Corp. sued the Communications Workers of America District 1 and the Local 1109, in Nassau County Supreme Court.

The fight began last year when Cablevision employees in Brooklyn voted to unionize - the first such unionization in company history. Things got ugly quickly, with the union claiming the company fired 25 workers in retaliation and the company accusing the union of using illegal tactics.

Cablevision claims in its complaint: "Since at least October 2012, defendants have been engaged in an unlawful campaign to discredit and libel Cablevision and its business. This campaign has included, among other things, the widespread dissemination of intentionally false and malicious statements about Cablevision, most particularly about Cablevision's Internet speeds. These falsehoods are part of a deliberate effort to destroy Cablevision's business reputation.

"Over the past week, defendants have commended a new and separate series of illegal efforts to harass and harm Cablevision, its reputation, its goodwill, and its business operations through means of two distinct telephone harassment schemes."

Scheme one, the complaint states, was placing at least 20,000 robocalls to Cablevision subscribers in 3 days - from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 - which "encouraged recipients to call Cablevision regarding rate increases and the termination of certain employees and provided a mechanism for them to do so automatically."

Cablevision claims the robocalls disguised their origin, as coming from a Cablevision call center. Pressing "1" would connect the recipient to a Cablevision call center.

On Feb. 3, the complaint states, the second "scheme" began, in which recipients who pressed "1" would be "connected directly to the personal business number of James Dolan, Cablevision's president and CEO."

Cablevision says Dolan's direct line received 1,193 such calls in the two days Feb. 4 and 5.

[Editor's note: Assuming that all calls were made during 8 working hours for two days, that would be one call every 30 seconds.]

On Feb. 4, the union also disseminated Dolan's direct number electronically and posted it on social media sites, "encouraging telephone calls designed to harass the company," the complaint states.

Cablevision calls this criminal harassment: "The improper use of the telephone 'in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm' is a crime under New York Penal Law Section 240.30 (aggravated harassment in the second degree) for which there is a private right of action," the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)

"The union will no doubt claim that their telephone harassment scheme is designed to allow customers to communicate substantive messages to the CEO, but such an argument cannot sustain the slightest scrutiny. The unions knows full well that no Fortune 500 CEO can possibly handle a concentrated barrage of one-on-one phone calls with subscribers and others, and that companies like Cablevision have designated and publicly known call centers established precisely to handle such calls in an orderly, responsive manner - including mechanisms for escalating certain such calls to the CEO, if necessary. In short, the union knows full well that its telephone scheme had no legitimate communicative intent and instead is designed to harass and disrupt. This becomes even clearer in the context of the union's other unlawful phone tactics".

Cablevision seeks costs and an injunction ordering the union not to harass it, aid or abet harassment, or falsely and deceptively display any Cablevision phone number on robocalls. It is represented by Robert Tils with Morrit Hock & Hamroff.

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