The Writers Guild East on Wednesday filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board accusing NBC Universal of union-busting over the January closure of the nonfiction production unit Peacock Productions.
The WGA is demanding that NBC News continue to apply the guild’s collective bargaining agreement to “the company’s ‘new’ nonfiction production company.”
“We have not seen the filing yet, but based on what’s in press reports, we strongly refute what’s being alleged,” a spokesperson for NBC News told TheWrap. “We have, in writing, requested to meet several times with the WGA East, and they have not responded. We continue to welcome the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with them.”
Peacock Productions had been unionized since 2016 but was replaced by NBC News Studios, which produces other nonfiction programming including documentaries and some scripted programs. In January, Peacock notified the WGAE that it would no longer employ writer-producers at Peacock, but the Guild now says it learned that several former Peacock employees, including some key leadership and other writer-producers that had previously unionized, would also be employed at NBC News Studios.
The Guild now says that NBC News is continuing the work of Peacock Productions, but is using a different banner with the same employees but is refusing to apply the WGAE collective bargaining agreement to those employees.
“This cynical maneuver is intended to bust the union, to continue the company’s years-long effort to reject its employees’ decision to be part of the WGAE and to bargaining collectively on critical workplace issues. Freelance employees creating nonfiction programs must be covered by the WGAE collective bargaining agreement, which was the product of years of struggle by freelance writer-producers and which protects their interests and reflects real gains in employment terms and conditions,” Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said in a statement.
“In response to what the Guild learned from last month’s ULP, the WGAE today filed another ULP against NBC at the NLRB. As that charge states, the Guild contract must be applied to the freelance producers and associate producers who are hired, and who will be hired in the future, to craft nonfiction programs at ‘NBC News Studios’ (or whatever new label the company might use to cover nonfiction television production),” the Guild continued in a statement. “That’s what the writer-producers struggled for so many years to achieve, and that’s what the law requires.”
The WGA East also launched a website to provide updates on the campaign for members.