NewsGuild president Jon Schleuss says NBC News and MSNBC can quickly end the ugly labor dispute that resulted in rank-and-file staffers walking off the job on Thursday – if they quit breaking federal labor laws.
“In the United States of America, every worker in the private sector has the legal right to form a union, to work with their colleagues, to basically fight for their wages, benefits and working conditions,” Schleuss told Fox News Digital.
“NBC has violated federal law by laying people off before there’s a full contract negotiated. So, the folks here at NBC organized a union about three years ago. And part of that process, they go into negotiations. Nothing can change until both parties agree on what the contract is going to say,” Schleuss added. “So, when they did layoffs — and they did that last month, that means that they did that illegally because they were not negotiated with the workers who formed a union here three years ago.”
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Earlier this week, the guild sent a scathing letter to NBC News chairman Cesar Conde along with executives Catherine Kim, Janelle Rodriguez and Libby Liest detailing that rank-and-file staffers have “had enough” of the company’s tactics. NBC News respondents with a statement claiming the Comcast-owned company is bargaining in good faith and the guild is “misrepresenting” the facts.
But Schleuss strongly disagreed with the notion.
“No, they’re not negotiating in good faith, and that’s why we filed unfair labor practice charges… because they’re breaking the law. It would be very easy to settle these negotiations. It’s called follow federal law,” Schleuss said. “So, if NBC wants to get these negotiations done, all they’ve got to do is agree to very common-sense terms that exist in contracts for news workers all across the country.”
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Attorney Helen Rella, head of employment law at Wilk Auslander, said whether NBC broke the law depends on what terms were agreed upon prior to negotiations.
“Employers who are subject to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement must comply with its terms including with respect to layoffs and terminations. Failure to adhere to agreed upon terms would subject an employer to claims of unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act ,” Rella told Fox News Digital.
“Similarly, employers have the obligation to bargain in good faith regarding the terms and conditions of employment. Whether the employer violated the law depends on both the existing collective bargaining agreement and its terms,” Rella continued. “Both the interference with concerted union activity and actions that do to comply with the applicable bargaining agreement are fact dependent relative to the collective bargaining agreement that is in place governing the relationship between the employer and the union and the applicable agreed upon obligations.”
Tate James, an NBC News video editor who serves as Guild chair, told Fox News Digital that there isn’t a collective bargaining agreement yet.
“That’s part of the huge frustration. We’ve been bargaining our first CBA for three years now, and NBC is refusing to agree to language they have agreed to in other contracts with [National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians] or other unions that provide an agreed upon system for layoffs,” James said.
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However, James Trust Guild members are still protected.
“Since we don’t have a contract yet, we are protected by the National Labor Relations Board, we are under what’s called ‘status quo’ which means NBC has to notify us and bargain over changes to terms and conditions of employment before we get a contract, too,” James said. “This is so an employer can’t just immediately lay off everyone after they unionize or lower salaries in retaliation — both of which NBC has tried or is trying to do.”
NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Schleuss said the Guild won’t stop until NBCUniversal does things right.
“They need to accept the layoffs. And if not, we’ll do whatever it takes. I mean, there’s 26,000 union members in the NewsGuild, CWA 300 here at NBC. And we’re going to do whatever it takes to hold them to account, because that’s what good journalists do. That’s what good Americans do,” he said.
“We are disappointed by the NewsGuild’s continued attempts to misrepresent the facts while we work in good faith with them to reach an agreement,” an NBC News spokesperson told Fox News Digital prior to the rally on Thursday.
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