Nasty Fight Between Union & Cablevision

     MINEOLA, N.Y. (CN) – The Communications Workers of America union defamed Cablevision by claiming it withheld rebates after Hurricane Sandy and provided slower Internet service in Brooklyn than in other boroughs, the corporation claims in court.
     Cablevision Systems Corp. sued the Communications Workers of America District 1 and Local 1109 and two union officials, in Nassau County Court.
     The Delaware-based telecommunications giant and its subsidiary, CSC Holdings, claim the union began an “unlawful campaign to discredit and libel Cablevision” in October 2012.
     “For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, defendants misrepresented Cablevision’s rebate policy for service outages in an attempt to capture the attention of individuals who suffered losses as a result of that disaster,” the complaint states.
     The New York Daily News printed the union’s claims in a Nov. 13 article, claiming that customers who lost service due to Sandy would have to “find a phone and beg Cablevision for refunds on their cable bills,” according to the complaint.
     “The article also quoted defendant [District 1 organizer Tim] Dubnau as falsely characterizing Cablevision’s policies as promoting the ‘inhuman argument that people with no power, no heat and nothing left need to find a way to drive somewhere, charge their cell phones and call Cablevision to inform the company that they have no service,'” the complaint states.
     “In fact, defendants were well aware from Cablevision’s public messaging about its storm rebate policy that Cablevision was offering refunds to all customers who reported a loss of service, even if that loss was due to a customer’s loss of power during the hurricane rather than any interruption in Cablevision’s services. In addition, defendants were well aware from Cablevision’s public statements that Cablevision’s subscribers had thirty days after the restoration of their service to report any outage, and that there was thus no need to ‘find a phone’ or ‘drive somewhere to charge their phone’ in order to obtain a rebate.”
     Defendant Chris Calabrese, executive vice president of Local 1109, forwarded the Daily News article to an undisclosed email list promising that he would call 50,000 Cablevision customers in Suffolk County, according to the complaint.
     “Following Calabrese’s email, CWA did in fact ‘robocall’ tens of thousands of Cablevision customers offering to connect them directly to Cablevision in order to request a refund, implying again that there was a rush to do so, and further damaging Cablevision’s reputation in the process,” the complaint states.
     On Dec. 6, CWA picketed a fund raiser for the Lustgarten Foundation, a pancreatic cancer charity supported by Cablevision, according to the complaint.
     The Politicker.com website reported that the union released this statement: “Cablevision does not want the public to notice that it is jacking up cable rates on customers, providing lower-quality service across Brooklyn and punishing hard working employees by withholding pay raises and intimidating union supporters,” according to the complaint.
     The union also allegedly claimed that Cablevision provides Brooklyn customers with 25 percent slower Internet service than those in the Bronx and more sluggish speeds than users in other boroughs.
     Cablevision claims that all of these statements defamed it and tortiously interfered with its business.
     The company seeks declaratory judgment and unspecified damages.
     It is represented by David Dunn, with Hogan Lovells, of Manhattan.

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