Scribes for E!, Style and G4 vote by 97 percent majority to join union
(Updated: 10:00 a.m. PST) The labor fight between writers for E!, Style and G4, who are attempting to unionize, and their parent company, Comcast, which doesn't seem to want them to, ramped up Wednesday morning, with the Writers Guild of America announcing Wednesday morning that the scribes had voted to join their union.
The results of Tuesday's secret ballot were announced by Los Angeles City Council president Eric Garcetti at City Hall, with writes voting to unionize by a 46-1 margin. Garcetti said the City Council was brought into the process to ensure its integrity.
(Updated 11:23 a.m. PST) Comcast issued a statement, calling the vote an "invalid poll." The company will not recognize the writers' WGA affiliation until the group goes through a formal process with the National Labor Relations Board, the statement said.
"We want to make it very clear to our employees, the press and the interested public that union elections are governed by federal law and overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, the government agency officially charged with such oversight for the past 75 years."
WGA officials estimate that between 60-65 writers are affected by the vote, but an exact count can't be made until Comcast agrees to sit down and negotiate a new contract with them.
To date, Comcast has resisted these overtures.
"We hope this sends a clear message to Comcast that these writers are serious about organizing, and it's time to sit down and negotiate with them," said Garcetti (pictured right), after announcing the results.
Putting writes for the three Comcast channels under the WGA fold would unionize one of the last bastions of the basic-cable universe that's not already signatory to the guild.
"Comcast has a history of not being supportive of union workers," noted WGA West president John Wells.
"We've been steadily working our way through the start-up (basic cable channels), identifying companies that have moved into the mainstream, like we did when we (unionized) Comedy Central a few years ago," Wells added. "And Comcast has very clearly moved into that world where it can afford to pay health and pension benefits to its workers."
So how much will that cost Comcast? Wells described the increased operational expense as "nominal." (Comment on that from Comcast officials is still pending.)
As for what happens next, "the ball is in (Comcast's) court," one WGA spokesperson said.
Should they continue not to recognize the union, will a strike occur? And what's the timeline on that?
WGA officials declined to speculate.
However, recalling remarks made earlier by Comcast officials during regulatory hearings for approval of their merger with NBC-Universal, Wells noted, "They said they understood they were going into a unionized town. We're going to hold them to that."
The results of a vote conducted Tuesday by writers for Comcast cable channels E!, Style and G4 on whether to join the Writers Guild fo America will be announced Wednesday morning at Los Angeles City Hall.
Los Angeles City Council president Eric Garcetti, who was brought in to certify the results, will announce the outcome.
The Comcast-owned cable channels have long operated on business models built around the creation of original programming using non-union writing talent.
With Comcast merging with NBC-Universal — a company that employs WGA-signatory writers across its broadcast and cable networks — that strategy is becoming awkward to maintain.