For the past couple of months, Comcast has been embroiled into a standoff with the WGA over efforts by writers on shows for Comcast Entertainment Group’s E!, Style and G4 networks to get union coverage. The war of words between the two sides, in which the WGA had accused Comcast of sabotaging its employees’ attempts to go union and Comcast had insisted that the WGA followed the lengthy NLRB procedure, escalated on Tuesday when the WGA announced that Comcast writers had voted overwhelmingly for WGA representation in a secret ballot election monitored and certified by the office of L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti. Moments later, Comcast dismissed the vote as a “non-binding poll.” This afternoon, Comcast Entertainment Group brass sent out a company-wide e-mail explaining its position on the matter. Here it is
Recently, there has been a lot said surrounding the Writer’s Guild of America West’s desire to represent the writers on some of the shows which air on E!, Style and G4. We wanted you to hear directly from your leadership team on this.
Let’s begin with a simple fact. The company respects the rights of our employees to decide if they wish to be represented by a union or not. For 75 years, the process of union representation has been handled by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is an independent federal agency created to safeguard employees’ rights to organize. The NLRB provides a process and determines which employees are in a voting unit and how many units may be within a company. The NLRB then also oversees the secret ballot election. We support this process as it is the one way to guarantee fairness. You should know that over the years, the WGA has relied on the NLRB process in its organizing activities. In fact, last year, the WGA West filed three petitions for elections with the NLRB. We have urged the WGA West to file a petition with the NLRB so that a binding secret ballot election, overseen by the NLRB, can take place. The WGA West has refused to do this and instead has demanded that E!, Style and G4 immediately recognize the WGAW as the representative of our writers. If we automatically recognize the WGA, it means that even those writers who are not interested in a union will have no choice but to be part of one without having had the right to vote. While the WGAW may accuse us of dragging our feet, the truth is we are standing up for a process that will ensure all of the impacted employees get a say in who will, or who will not, represent them. Please note, if the WGAW had filed a petition with the NLRB back in October when they initially contacted the company, we would be very far along in the NLRB process by now.
On Tuesday, the WGAW conducted its own poll among some of our employees without the involvement of the NLRB, and the results were announced on Wednesday. The WGAW claims that 97% of our writers voted in favor of union representation, yet they tallied only 47 votes. We cannot know at this point exactly how many employees would be eligible to vote; determining this is a key first step in an NLRB-sanctioned election, but it is highly unlikely that 47 is the accurate number or a majority. Regardless, we respect the opinions of those 47 employees and want them to be heard. We also, however, respect the wishes of other employees and need to protect their interests as well. Again, we ask that the WGAW follow the NLRB process ensuring a free and fair election. This is the only way to accurately determine exactly which employees would have the right to vote in an election and ensure all of those voices are heard. Any other method is simply not just or fair.
It has been suggested that our writers don’t have employee benefits. In fact, our employees, including our writers, enjoy an excellent array of employee benefits which includes medical, dental and vision, a 401K plan with company matching, sick leave and paid vacation, paid holidays and flex time, plus life, as well as short and long-term disability insurance. It has been consistently pointed out in our annual employee surveys that our employees are very happy with these benefits. We are confident these benefits are comparable to union benefits. We also take pride in nurturing the talent of our employees, offering opportunities to take on new and exciting work—opportunities that employees at many other companies do not enjoy. We also have great retention among our staff, and many employees have been with the company for five years or longer, including writers.
By sharing these points with you, we can all be better informed about what is happening. This company is not anti-union, as the WGA contends, and it will respect the outcome of an NLRB conducted election. The company’s leaders strongly believe what is best for our employees is to hear from both sides and then to make an informed decision through an impartial NLRB election. What we will not do is recognize any entity on your behalf until the votes of a true majority are counted in a fair and impartial way. That’s not anti-union, that’s pro-employee.