We've Got Hollywood Covered

NBCU Writers Accuse Steve Burke of Blocking Unionization

The Writers Guild of America, East, has been trying to organize writer-producers at Peacock Productions since 2009

(Update, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:50 a.m. ET: Peacock Productions responds that the NLRB had balllots impounded as part of the normal review process.)

Writers from "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night," "30 Rock" and a slew of other NBCUniversal shows called on NBCU President Steve Burke to allow writers at the company's Peacock Productions to unionize.

Peacock produces nonfiction programming for basic cable networks, including such shows as "Caught on Camera" and "Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda." The Writers Guild of America, East, has been trying to organize writer-producers at the company since 2009.

Also read: WGAE Reaches Deals With 2 Non-Scripted TV Producers

For its part, the union says NBCU's legal team has asserted that half the employees in the proposed bargaining unit are supervisors who are not entitled to protection under the National Labor Relations Act.

The National Labor Relations Board directed a secret-ballot election in June, but the union says NBCU has had those ballots impounded while it appeals. NBCU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a letter to Burke, the WGAE calls on NBCU to stop blocking its efforts. It says that if a majority of the voters want representation, the two sides should begin negotiations for a collective-bargaining agreement.

“We are mystified by NBCU’s refusal to honor the results of the NLRB election,” said Lowell Peterson, the WGAE's executive director. “The company employs a lot of Guild members and, as the letter we delivered to the CEO makes clear, those members don’t think their colleagues should have fewer rights and lesser conditions.”

Among those signing the letter were writers from "Community," the "Law & Order" franchise, "Parks and Recreation," "Smash," "Do No Harm," "1600 Penn," "Royal Pains," "Passions," "The Cosby Show," "Homicide: Life on the Streets," and more shows.

The union says nonfiction television has boomed in recent years by creating "low-cost, highly profitable programming that relies on low wages, smaller crews and longer work schedules by freelance employees with no health care." It says more than 1,000 people work in the field in New York alone.