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House Trio Backs Unions

A Trio of House Democrats has written FCC Chairman Kevin Martin asking the FCC to review issues they say are raised by the ongoing negotiations between CBS and the Writers Guild of America East and West.

The three legislators represent the three states most affected by the negotiations over new contracts with news employees in New York, L.A., Chicago, and Washington--Maurice Hinchey (NY); Diane Watson (Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.).

The three say they are concerned with what appear to be CBS’ efforts to remove news producers from bargaining units and perhaps merge station newsrooms, arguing that "jeopardizes journalistic integrity."

Ten days ago, the guild negotiating committee rejected a proposal, made in a sidebar discussion with CBS in its protracted contract talks, that would have left producers in the union, for now. According to an advisory sent to members, CBS said it would no longer ask that producers be taken out of the union, but said that if the union ever agreed to take producers out in a contract with another employer, CBS would get to do the same.

Removing producers from the union is considered a nonnegotiable, non-starter by WGA.

The two sides aren’t scheduled to return to the bargaining table until Aug. 17. Already, it is the longest WGA members have had to negotiate past the end of a contract in the 50-plus years of the WGA/CBS relationship, says Toback.

"Our recent bargaining session was an off-the-record sidebar conversation that we prefer to keep confidential," said CBS in a statement at the time. A CBS spokeswoman could not be reached for comment Monday.