2ND UPDATE, 10:08 AM: The blame game continues in the stalled Peacock Productions unionization election. First more than 40 writers sent a protest letter to NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke on WGA East letterhead on Monday (see below). They were upset over the fact that a National Labor Relations appeal by the company of a vote by Peacock freelancers on June 14 have not yet been counted and ballots impounded. Then today NBCU said they didn’t impound anything, it was the NLRB as a part of the appeal procedure and out of their hands. Now WGA East Executive Director Lowell Peterson has sent me a new statement annoyed at what he sees as NBCU’s sophistry. “Sad to see NBCU indulge in corporate double talk. The issue is simple, NBCU executives have the power to unblock the vote and let the ballots be counted. We call on them again to do so and allow the writer-producers to make their own decision about representation. That’s democracy at work,” said Peterson. The thing is in all this jockeying for position, both sides are right. NBCU could asked the NLRB to have their appeal halted so the votes could be counted. However, they didn’t actually stop the votes from being counted or had the ballots impounded, that was done by the NLRB. And, if anyone is asking, they are still investigating the case, sources tell me.
UPDATE, 8:25 AM: NBCUniversal‘s Peacock Productions says it didn’t ask to have any votes impounded in a union election — the National Labor Relations Board did. After a public letter Monday to NBCU chief Steve Burke from dozens of NBC writers (see below) on the dispute over some freelancers at Peacock seeking to join WGA East, the company sent me its own statement today on the matter:
Prior to the June 14 vote, we asked the NLRB to review the Regional Director’s decision regarding the supervisory status of Peacock’s freelance producers. The NLRB granted us a review. As is part of the normal process, the votes were impounded by the NLRB until a decision is made. We are still waiting for the NLRB to render their decision, which is why no votes have been counted.
We believe that Peacock’s producers hold meaningful supervisory authority, which according to Federal Labor Law, excludes them from voting. The Board decided to review the Regional Director’s decision and is currently in the process of doing so.
PREVIOUSLY, MONDAY AM: The NBCUniversal CEO got a direct request today from over 40 writers on the network’s shows past and present that he let a June unionization vote at Peacock Productions go forward. “Our understanding is that these ballots have been impounded because NBC has chosen to pursue a legal strategy to nullify the votes of over half of the eligible voters in this election on the grounds that they are supervisors and not entitled to any protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA); a strategy that has already failed at the regional level of the NLRB,” said a letter (read it here) to Steve Burke from the Writers Guild of America, East and signed by Tom Fontana, Royal Pains’ EP Michael Rauch as well as writers from Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and over a dozen other shows. Freelancers at Peacock Productions voted on June 14 on joining the Writers Guild of America, East. NBCU quickly appealed the vote to the National Labor Relations Board on the basis that nearly half of the 100 freelance producers who voted are in supervisory positions and not entitled to the union protection and benefits like heath insurance, residuals and pensions. The WGA East has been on the move on various fronts to unionize non-fiction production companies like Peacock since 2009.
The WGA East claims that writers at NBC News’ Peacock, which produces reality/documentary programming for cable like True Crime With Aphrodite Jones, Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda and Caught On Camera, have been trying to organize for over a year but NBCU is blocking them. After the regional NLRB director allowed June’s vote, NBCU had the ballots impounded while it pursued its appeal. Today’s letter from the writers asked Burke to drop that appeal, let the votes be counted and, if unionization wins, to start collective bargaining negotiations. “We are mystified by NBCU’s refusal to honor the results of the NLRB election,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson in a statement Monday. “The company employs a lot of Guild members and, as the letter we delivered to the CEO makes clear, those members don’t think their colleagues should have fewer rights and lesser conditions.”