CNN Discussing Settlement in Lengthy Labor Dispute, Ring Says

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By Chris Opfer and Hassan A. Kanu

The 14-year-old labor battle between CNN and a group of contract technicians may be nearing an end, National Labor Relations Board Chairman John Ring (R) said today.

The cable news giant is mediating a potential settlement with a group of tech workers staffed by a video services company, Ring said. That would resolve a hard-fought battle over whether CNN was a “joint employer” of those workers and required to collectively bargain with a union representing them.

“I don’t even know that it’s being settled, all I know is that it’s a part of the board mediation process right now,” Ring told Bloomberg Law. “There’s hundreds and hundreds of people involved, it’s a big case, and so I think the mediation is just taking a long time.”

A CNN spokeswoman and a lawyer for the union representing the workers didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment. Zachary Fasman, who represents the company in the case, declined to comment.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians filed an unfair labor practice complaint against CNN in 2004 by refusing to bargain with the workers and later terminating the contract with the subcontractor that staffed them. A Democratic-majority NLRB in 2014 sided with the union, finding that CNN exercised sufficient control over the technicians to be considered their joint employer.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., overturned that decision some three years later. The court said CNN didn’t have “direct and immediate” control over the technicians, who operated electronic equipment in the company’s New York and Washington news bureaus.

The legal battle waged on as the board revised its approach to joint employer liability in 2015. The NLRB has said a business can be considered a joint employer of another employer’s workers if it exerts indirect control over them. Ring recently announced that the board intends to revise that standard in a new regulation.

Joint employment has been a marquee labor issue in recent years. Companies such as McDonald’s and Microsoft say the current standard could make them responsible for workers that aren’t theirs. Labor advocates say they want workers to have a seat at the table with those who actually direct their jobs.

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