Cablevision Challenges the Authority of National Labor Relations Board

James Dolan Headshot 2011
Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Cablevision is making a lot of noise on the labor front today.

On the same day that a speech by Cablevision CFO Gregg Seibert was subject to an attempted hijacking by labor protesters, the company has filed a bold salvo that's clearly aimed at the heart of the National Labor Relations Board's authority to act in light of controversial recess appointments made by President Barack Obama.

Cablevision is currently at war with the Communication Workers of America over pay for technicians and over allegations of union-busting. The NLRB has authorized complaints that Cablevision and its CEO James Dolan have intimidated and spied on workers, illegally terminated 22 workers and bargained in bad faith.

In a filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Cablevision is now seeking an emergency stay of such actions.

"Two different federal courts of appeals – the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit – have ruled that the NLRB lacks a valid quorum and thus has no authority to take action," says Cablevision in a statement. "Yet the NLRB is ignoring these rulings, and continues to prosecute various unfair labor practice charges against Cablevision – charges that are baseless but will nonetheless require that the Company – not to mention the taxpayers – devote overwhelming amounts of time and money to participate in a lengthy, pointless trial. We are calling on the D.C. Circuit to instruct the NLRB that it is not free to ignore federal court rulings and to halt the NLRB’s prosecution of Cablevision.”

Here's the emergency motion to stay and a petition for writ of mandamis.

In the court papers, Cablevision cites an earlier DC Circuit case in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning that could be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. That ruling sparked intense conversation among politicos in D.C. with the opinion that the NLRB  “lacked authority to act for want of a quorum, as three members of the five-member Board were never validly appointed.”

In short, Cablevision echoes the argument that "because the President’s purported recess appointments of [members] were unconstitutional," it can't decide labor complaints against Cablevision.

The motion isn't likely to be received kindly by the workers who are feuding with James Dolan's Cablevision.

Today at the Nomura Global Media & Telecom Summit, many protesters took turns shouting questions about union-busting and contracts at Seibert. As the CFO attempted to present the picture of a company that had turned the corner with new products and enhanced branding, protesters lashed out at what they said was "greed" on the part of company executives.

The protesters had to be escorted out by security, and the interruption caused an online audio feed to be cut off.

A Cablevision spokesperson comments, "They were escorted out, and the discussion with Mr. Siebert continued."

The CWA has issued its own statement.

“Rather than trying to make their case against charges of anti-union behavior before a neutral law judge, Cablevision has now resorted to trying to undermine the authority of the federal agency which reviewed the evidence and issued the charges,” said Bob Master of the Communications Workers of America District 1. “This is just more of the same from a company that seems to think that the law doesn't apply to them, and leaves workers and customers behind.”

Twitter: @eriqgardner