Approximately 50 workers for the Communications Workers of America union interrupted a cancer benefit in Times Square on Thursday to protest their stalled contract talks with Cablevision Systems Corporation, according to the New York Post.
The benefit, held at the Hard Rock Cafe restaurant, raised almost $2 million for the Lustgarten Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on researching a cure for pancreatic cancer.
Cablevision, AMC Networks and The Madison Square Garden Company presented the benefit, the 12th annual Holiday Rock & Roll Bash. The event has raised a total of $15 million since its inception.
But attendees on Thursday night were shocked to hear the union members blaring music, waving signs and shouting insults directed at Cablevision CEO James Dolan.
“He is a greedy person pretending to be philanthropist; he’s Scrooge!” Tim Dubnau, an organizer the union, yelled. “He’s just trying to look good in front of the community. Some workers have cancer, and don’t have health care.”
Chris Calabrese, the union local’s executive vice president, called Dolan a “philanthropist and a bully.”
But Dolan, whose rock band played at the charity event, said the union’s behavior was embarrassing and offensive.
“They think being disruptive for their personal gain is more important than beating pancreatic cancer,” he said. “Their values are twisted. I’m surprised at the depth of their lowness. Everyone who deals with them should take note. It’s shameful.”
“The survival rate [for pancreatic cancer] is so low,” said one of the attendees at the benefit. “It’s one of the least-funded cancers. … It’s hard to understand why people would protest an event like this.”
At least one union that had planned to attend the protest withdrew when they discovered that the event was for charity, the Post reported.