EXCLUSIVE: Comcast and the Writers Guild of America are battling over union organizing. Over the last several months the writers of Comcast Entertainment Group have quietly engaged the Writers’ Guild of America West for the purposes of collective bargaining with their employer. CEG is the cable entertainment wing of Comcast: it includes the E!, Style!, and G4 networks, as well as Versus, Sprout, and Fear Net. Here’s what we’re told is happening:
Inside the company our title is Script Consultant, Story Editor, Producer or anything other than Writer. We decided to send this note to Deadline.com to let you know that collectively we write countless hours of television across E!, Style, & G4. This is scripted television work that deserves the benefits of coverage by WGA contracts.
Instead of honoring our request for recognition, Comcast has chosen to stall and push this off until they feel it is convenient to them, [which is] long past the time they expect the merger with NBC Universal to close. While they work to reorganize their executive staff as if the merger were a fait accompli, we sit and wait for what is, by law, our right. Now, rather than adhering to their promises of good labor relations they made to the WGA, the U.S. Congress and other Hollywood unions and their acknowledgement that Hollywood is a union town, they have chosen to ask for an election with a lengthy hearing process — in spite of the fact that over 80% of the CEG writing staff has signed cards. Anyone who has ever worked in this industry knows that we do NOT go to election. We can’t even recall the last time an organization effort in this town had to go to vote. We are simply asking for the same recognition the Comedy Central writers got from Viacom three years ago. If Comcast is willing to circumnavigate traditional entertainment industry procedures in this manner, we can only imagine what they’ll try to get away with in the future.
Today, Comcast sent an email to the entire staff of Comcast Entertainment Group filled with misleading information about the Guild’s cordial efforts to engage them in a civil dialogue. It appears that Comcast would rather have its E!, Style, and G4 writers in a non-unionized environment, working alongside union writers in our future family networks of SyFy, Bravo, USA and others. Clearly, this second-class citizenship for CEG writers doing the same work as union writers is an unacceptable solution.
We strongly encourage Comcast to come to the bargaining table and act like the responsible Hollywood player we hope they are.
The Organized Writers of Comcast Entertainment Group
Here the text of the all-company email which the Organized Writers of Comcast Entertainment Group received this afternoon:
To: All E!, Style, and G4 Employees
From: Kathy Mandato, SVP Human Resources
Date: November 18, 2010
Re: WGA Organizing Effort
I have some news I’d like to share today affecting a small number of employees.
The Writers Guild of America West (WGA) has adopted an agenda of organizing employees who write programming for basic cable, and have set their sights on E!, Style, and G4. Recently they informed us that some employees have signed authorization cards indicating their interest in union representation.
The National Labor Relations Act long ago established a process by which employees can form or join unions. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversees the administration and enforcement of this process. If a union wants to represent a group of employees, it files a petition for an election with the NLRB. The NLRB then schedules and supervises a secret ballot election to determine whether the employees want to be represented by the union.
The WGA requested a different process. They asked us to bypass a government conducted secret ballot election, to simply recognize them, and thereby automatically have the union represent these particular employees.
We believe that our employees need to exercise their right to vote on a matter as important to them as union representation. Therefore, today we advised the WGA that we are not willing to instantly recognize them. We want employees to learn all the facts about union representation before voting as to whether or not they want to be part of a union.
We look forward to reaching out to those of you who would be part of the units that the WGA want to represent. We will discuss how a unionized environment may affect you. We believe that after hearing both sides, and understanding all the facts, you will decide that it is in your best interest to continue to maintain your current relationship with your supervisor and management team.
While we go through this process, we are committed to providing all employees with current, relevant and truthful information about the issues the union will raise as part of their campaign.
Please feel free to contact me, Steve Dolcemaschio, or Steve Blue with any questions you may have.
Below is a statement from WGAW Executive Director David Young about the above matter:
“More than 80% of the writers working for Comcast Entertainment Group have signed union authorization cards designating the WGAW as their bargaining representative. The writers hoped that Comcast would behave in an honorable manner and agree to their desire for union representation without delay. Comcast now says they want an NLRB election.
NLRB elections are banana republic elections that are held after a period of delay that employers use to terrorize workers and threaten their jobs. Such elections make a mockery of free choice. Comcast has consistently proven in their dealings with unions nationally that they embrace this model of intimidation. This is one of many reasons why Comcast’s proposed merger with NBC-Uni should be opposed, including via anti-trust litigation.
The WGAW objects to Comcast’s attempt to intimidate their writers and will stand with these writers in their fight for fair wages and benefits for their families.”