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Union Seeks Adelphia Probe

Bankruptcy Court filing alleges that anti-labor conduct by the cable TV operator wasted money and damaged morale.

August 27, 2003|From Bloomberg News

A labor union at Adelphia Communications Corp. asked a bankruptcy judge to appoint an examiner to investigate allegations that the company is engaging in union busting that could hinder its reorganization.

The Communications Workers of America, which represents about 500 hourly workers at 12 Adelphia facilities, went on strike this year in Morgantown, W.Va., and backs a current walkout in Auburn, N.Y.

The union accused Adelphia, the fifth-largest cable television operator, of employing a "scorched-earth strategy" to battle the unions. About 5.5% of Adelphia's 14,500 workers are union members.

"Strike-inducing conduct at two locations has resulted in wasteful expenditures, has soured community relations and damaged employee morale," the union said in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

Adelphia, which filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in June 2002, has $18 billion in debt. The company is seeking to emerge from reorganization by late 2004.

Former Chief Executive John Rigas and two of his sons face a criminal fraud trial in January.

The company has 5.3 million customers in the U.S., including about 235,000 in West Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and Eagle Rock.

Paul Jacobson, a spokesman for Glenwood Village, Colo.-based Adelphia, said the company maintains a "positive, constructive and productive relationship" with its workers and respects the decision of employees to join unions.

The company believes, however, that the interests of its employees are best served when there is a direct working relationship between management and employees, he said.

He wouldn't comment specifically on the union's filing.

The union, which also filed claims of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board, said in the Bankruptcy Court filing that Adelphia's labor relations strategy wastes money and undermines its reorganization effort.

"Adelphia is either zealously committed to the elimination of union representation regardless of cost, or utterly incompetent in its conduct of labor relations," the union said.

The NLRB has told Adelphia it believes that some of the union's allegations of unfair labor practices have merit, said Gerald Kobell, regional director of the board's Pittsburgh office. The board is trying to negotiate a settlement.

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