Unions Consolidate To Face Merged Media

Ten communications unions representing a million workers are banding together to provide a united front in the face of "rapid media consolidation and massive technological shifts."

That will include organizing, collective bargaining, and pushing for public policy.

And in a separate move, one of those guilds, the Writers Guild of America East, joined with its West Coast counterpart Thursday to mend fences. Both unions are led by new presidents who are committed to presenting their own, more united, front to big media bosses.

The 10 communications unions have asked the AFL-CIO to create an Industry Coordinating Committee to orchestrate that collective reponse.

It will be the first such committee, which the AFL-CIO proposed forming on a number of fronts at its July meeting, and will collectively bargain and lobby for legislation and public policy, pending official approval of the committee thy the leadership of the respective unions.

"Those professionals who work in the arts, entertainment, media and telecommunications industries need a strong, united effort to address their issues in the face of ownership consolidation and unprecedented changes," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in a statement. "And today, they're one big step closer to winning more power."

The unions that are marshalling their forces are Actors Equity, the American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Communications Workers of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, Screen Actors Guild, The Newspaper Guild, and the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE). The WGA West (WGAW) is not a part of the AFL-CIO.

Meanwhile, WGAE and WGAW have agreed to suspend their court fight, which was over whether WGA West claims involving jurisdiction and allocation of dues were subject to arbitration. Instead, the groups will try to resolve those claims among themselves, "member to member and face to face."

In a joint letter to their respective members, WGAE President Chris Albers and WGAW President Patric M. Verrone said: "During our respective campaigns, members on both coasts made it patently clear that they expect the dispute between our guilds to end. We listened; we understood; and we are taking action."

Another step was the WGAW decision to support WGAE in its ongoing negotiations with CBS and ABC over new contracts for news employees.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.