CNN Settles a 16-Year Labor Dispute With Broadcast Technicians for a Whopping $76 Million

By A.J. Katz 

$76 million.

That’s what CNN has agreed to pay to settle a 16-year National Labor Relations Board dispute alleging that CNN violated federal labor law by firing roughly 200 unionized broadcast technicians—including camera operators—in 2003.

“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 statement.


The $76 million is the largest monetary settlement in NLRB history and is more than what it actually collects on average in a typical year.

The settlement goes to the NLRB, which in turn will pay the affected workers who, in 2003, worked for a CNN subcontractor named Team Video Service, a company which had been providing technicians to operate CNN electronic equipment for years. Team Video Service workers were part of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, a union representing employees in television, radio, film and media production.

CNN terminated the subcontract because it said it wanted to start directly hiring an in-house group of operators and technicians, and the union filed a complaint at the time alleging CNN’s true motivation was to avoid dealing with the employees’ union.

CNN, on the other hand, made the argument that it was never the camera operators’ employer but rather that it just contracted with the company, Team Video Service. The NLRB ruled against CNN in 2014, and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling in 2017, calling CNN the camera operators’ “successor employer.”

Fast-forward and you get a number of $76 million.

The timing here is very interesting. The labor dispute with CNN threatened to disrupt next Tuesday’s debate at Drake University in Iowa, which CNN is hosting. The Communications Workers of America union had spoken to the DNC, Democratic presidential candidates who qualified for the debate and CNN of its intention to picket the event, which wouldn’t have been a great look for the network.

“After more than a decade of litigation, negotiation and appeals, we are pleased to have resolved a longstanding legal matter,” a CNN spokesperson told TVNewser.