The Widdershins

Solidarity for ehhhhver…not so much at MSNBC

Posted on: December 16, 2013


Sorry this is a pic of just men

You would think that of any workplace in America, that MSNBC would be a bastion of liberal enlightenment when it came to workers being able to organize.  With the likes of Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and others, that being able to organize into a bargaining unit would be a piece of cake.  Eh, not so much.  Things are not all hunky-dory at MSNBC, NBC-Universal and Peacock Productions, which apparently is the company under which writers and producers produce a lot of the shows we see on MSNBC.

It seems that last year, nonfiction writers and producers decided to try to organize a union with P.P. and were trying to affiliate with the Writers Guild of America-East and that didn’t sit very well with the honchos at P.P. and NBC-Universal  (NBC-Universal is owned by Comcast).  After the writers and producers decided to try to organize, according to organizing director Justin Melito of the WGA-E, Peacock Productions  “responded with mandatory group meetings and one-on-one conversations in which managers pushed an anti-union line, and a spurious legal case that got the votes from a union election impounded (and thus left uncounted to date) by arguing many workers seeking union recognition were in fact supervisors and thus ineligible.”  Peacock’s view was that  producers were not eligible to join the union saying “We believe that Peacock’s producers hold meaningful supervisory authority, which, according to Federal Labor Law, excludes them from voting.”  With that line of argument, Peacock got the votes for unionization uncounted.  Producer/writer Steve Rizo was working for Peacock at the time and said that meetings with managers could get very intimidating.  Rivo said:

… that in meetings managers “specifically referred to possible outcomes of a pro-union vote, one of which included the possibility that Comcast … might just simply dissolve Peacock … It was made very clear to the whole company that the group of people who were interested in joining the Writers Guild could actually bring down the whole company.”

Peacock employee David Van Taylor said that “Some of it could be very intimidating,” and he told Salon that managers “said that they were worried – both in public meetings and in private meetings – that they would be shut down if a union passed here.”  Rivo also said that once his support for the WGA-E was known that “my assignments were not as forthcoming as they were before.”.  Van Taylor agreed with that:

“A pattern seemed to be developing where the people who had spoken up on behalf of the WGA-E were being last to be assigned to jobs or to have jobs.” Van Taylor said he and other openly pro-union workers heard that their co-workers were being criticized by management “just for like being friendly to us,” rather than shunning them for supporting the union.

Now you may be asking why workers like writers and producers might want to affiliate with a union and especially a wild, out-of-control group like the Writers Guild of America and Rivo (who has worked in the industry for 20 years) explained why:

“many formerly independent documentary producers are now working as weekly wage workers in the nonfiction TV industry,” and thus seeking contracts that guarantee pay, health coverage and residuals.

And Van Taylor explained his interest in the union:

he’d been spurred to get involved with the union by comparing the “sense of insecurity and lack of control” where he worked to the conditions for union members employed on fiction shows: “You can see that, you know, it’s possible to have a career as a freelance writer that’s not completely insecure and uncertain at all times.”

Now you may be asking what the hell all of this has to do with the “personalities” at MSNBC, the faces you see on the teevee, that have covered the workers’ protests in Wisconsin and other places where collective bargaining has been attacked.  Well you see, the behind-the-scenes workers asked some of their more well known coworkers to meet with them:  and they either declined (sometimes rather nastily) or said nothing.  All of them save for Chris Hayes.  Now you have to understand dear Widdershins…Chris Hayes is the one personality on MSNBC that gets under my skin at times and will make me grind my teeth!  He just, at times, works on my last nerve.  But now, I’ll have to change my opinion of him.

Salon contacted Ed Shultz about the workers’ attempts at organizing and apparently Schultz was irked because the AFL-CIO and Writers Guild used Move on to start a petition which you can see here.  The group wanted the signed petitions to be delivered to: Chris Hayes, Host of “All In with Chris Hayes”, Ed Schultz, Host of “The Ed Show”, Rachel Maddow, Host of “The Rachel Maddow Show”, Al Sharpton, Host of “PoliticsNation”, and Lawrence O’Donnell, Host of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” and it asked that:

As an MSNBC host and a strong voice for labor and progressive causes, I’m calling on you to show your support for producers and associate producers at NBC-owned Peacock Productions who are being denied their right to organize. Please meet with these workers and take a public stand to support their right to organize.

When Shutlz was asked by Salon about the petition his reply was:

“ has never been an ally of Ed Schultz, why should I help you with a story? Give me a reason.”

Well…okie dokie then.  So the only one who would meet with the employees was Chris Hayes.

In apparent contrast to his colleagues, Hayes met with Peacock Productions workers in a private meeting with WGA-E staff at the union’s office, according to people who were in the room (Hayes did not respond to a Monday request to comment on that account). “We presented our case to Chris Hayes and he understood what we were dealing with …” Peacock Productions worker David Van Taylor told Salon. “I don’t know whether Chris Hayes will do anything in support of us – you know, of this campaign. I have no idea. But he listened and he heard us. And you know, I appreciate that he took the time to listen.”

Now, the idea that Rivo had was that:

“People like Ed Schultz and Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow report frequently on and are quite supportive of the American labor movement, “so we feel that it would be fitting for them to express support for their colleagues who are writing and producing shows on the same network, but who are being denied the opportunity to join a union.”  Rivo was not at the meeting with Hayes.

Josh Eidelson, the author of the Salon piece did ask this about the “personalities” supporting the behind the scenes employees:

If an MSNBC personality did choose to voice support for fellow Comcast/NBC workers during their time off-air, would federal law against anti-union retaliation offer them any protection from corporate pushback? Liebman (who chaired the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama) noted that the answer would depend on whether they were hired through “an employment contract, or a contract for services,” whether they met one of the dozen criteria for being supervisors (excluded from protection), and whether they fell under the Supreme Court’s standard for “managerial” status (also excluded): those who “formulate and effectuate management policies by expressing and making operative the decisions of their employer.” In addition, said Liebman , “There have been some cases where the discharge of a supervisor has been held to be unlawful if it is intended to interfere with ongoing organizing efforts.” (Even in cases where workers are squarely covered by law, unions and their allies have long questioned current law’s efficacy at avenging or averting illegal retaliation.)

Molito, the organizer with the Writers Guild told Salon:

I think any time workers are speaking out in favor of collective bargaining and speaking out in favor of the right of themselves and fellow employees, there is risk involved …The degree of that risk, I think for an MSNBC host is likely less than the risk that’s already been taken by hundreds of workers in campaigns across the country.” He said the union would “love for them to speak publicly to whatever extent they’re comfortable with, but the call is really for them to show solidarity in a way that they can show solidarity, and in a way that they think is the most effective for them to do so.”

Chris Hayes wrote a piece for In These Times in 2006 which said “If we lose unions, we lose the concept of solidarity itself,”.  “And it’s hard to imagine we won’t become worse people for it … As the American right offers that redundant canard ‘moral values’ as its lodestar, the left should offer solidarity. Not retrograde brotherhood, or faith-specific fellowship, but something more robust and difficult and rewarding. The uplift of collective enterprise.”

This is an open thread.


11 Responses to "Solidarity for ehhhhver…not so much at MSNBC"

Here ya go chat, this should warm your heart after missing that INT that Brady threw yesterday.

Wow. That is mind boggling. Looks really bad for the msnbc hosts. Hypocrites. I didn’t know that the non fiction staffers weren’t unionized like those working in fiction. Thanks for posting Fredster!

I saw that INT that Brady threw on the news last nite. Looks like he’s on the downward slope of his career.

annie: I was surprised by it also, thinking that the non fiction writers and producers were unionized just like their counterparts on the west coast writing for tv series and I can’t blame them for wanting this. And while I can understand that if the tv hosts are under personal contracts or something they may not want to say anything about this on the air, but good grief couldn’t they at least meet with the writer/producers like Chris Hayes did and perhaps give them some moral support?

Looks like he’s on the downward slope of his career.

Lol! He and Giselle and the kids will just retire to that new mansion they built in Cali. tee-hee!!

After yesterday’s Saints performance I wonder about Breesy too. I figured we’d have another good 3 years with Drew, but that game yesterday, from what I read, was a team disaster. 😦

LOL! Except for annie’s comment, this post as gone over as well as…well this:

It’s actually a good post, Fredster. I;ve been out delivering toys to the church and taking the grandmonsters to do their shopping,.

chat@ You know how it goes sometimes. LOL!

I was actually stunned when I came across the article. I had just thought that these writers/producers got the same type of benefits as the others did and I loved that MSNBC/Peacock Productions/NBC-Uni were not above using the same type of scare tactics that say, oh, Walmart would use against an organizing effort.

I thought Brady & Gisele were building a new mansion in Mass? Thats too bad about Brees. He’s had a nice career.

Nuthin’ wrong with the post Fredster. Chalk it up to holiday-ness. I didn’t get home myself tonight til 11pm.

annie@8: Oh I think Tom and Gisele have a manse on both coasts!

Thats too bad about Brees. He’s had a nice career.

Noooo!! Don’t say that. We don’t have a backup. I think Drew still has a few good years left. I didn’t see the St. Louis game but from what I’ve read, what happened is that his blocker on the blind side was doing a pitiful job of protecting him. It was so bad that Sean Payton benched him in the 3rd quarter which was way too late then.

Sorry everyone I have been crazy busy here I promise to make up for it!

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