The federal labor board on Friday approved a roughly $76 million dollar offer by CNN to settle a long-running labor dispute with camera operators who accused the news organization of canceling their contract because they were unionized.
The National Labor Relations Board’s approval will finally resolve the 16-year-old labor dispute involving more than 200 camera operators in New York and Washington. The settlement figure is the “largest monetary remedy” in the board’s 85-year history, according to the NLRB.
“The settlement demonstrates the Board’s continued commitment to enforcing the law and ensuring employees who were treated unfairly obtain the monetary relief ordered by the Board,” NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb said in a prepared statement.
CNN in 2003 ended its relationship with subcontractor Team Video Services, which had provided technicians to operate the company’s electronic equipment for years. The news network said it wanted to start directly hiring an in-house group of operators and technicians. The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians filed a complaint alleging its real motivation was to avoid dealing with the employees’ union.
The labor board agreed with the union, finding that CNN was legally responsible as the workers’ "successor employers.” The case bounced between the board and a federal appeals court, slowing a final decision, before the sides started discussing a possible a settlement.
“This incredible settlement in workers’ favor should send a very clear message to CNN and to other employers that union-busting is illegal and has consequences,” NABET President Charlie Braico said in a statement issued after the deal was announced.
The agreement approved by the NLRB doesn’t address whether CNN and TVS were joint employers—a hot button issue that poses major risk to businesses that rely on contracted labor. Various agencies in President Donald Trump’s administration are currently working on reverting to a stricter standard that would make it harder to prove two entities are joint employers, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor.
“After more than a decade of litigation, negotiation and appeals we are pleased to have resolved a longstanding legal matter,” a CNN spokesperson said.
The union says it advised the Democratic National Committee and campaigns for candidates seeking the party’s presidential nomination that it intended to picket a Jan. 14 debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. A number of Democratic front-runners have previously said they wouldn’t cross labor picket lines on the campus of Loyola Marymount University to attend a Dec. 19 debate in Los Angeles. A labor dispute at the school was resolved in the days leading up to the event.