A group of more than 300 MSNBC employees are mounting a unionization drive with the Writers Guild of America East to represent writers, talent bookers, fact-checkers and others in editorial at NBCUniversal’s all-news cable network.
On Thursday, a group dubbed @MSNBCUnion posted a letter on social media signed by more than 200 employees that called on NBCUniversal parent Comcast to voluntarily recognize the WGA East as the collective bargaining agent for about 315 employees of MSNBC and the news program “The Choice,” which airs on NBCU’s Peacock streamer. MSNBC president Rashida Jones said in a memo sent Thursday that the company will require an election.
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Unionization is “the best way to ensure a fair equitable and safe workplace,” the letter stated. The focus of WGA East’s collective bargaining will be “to advocate for equal pay for equal work and work/life balance that meet our families’ needs; diversity at every level of production; clear job descriptions and access to career development; a say in what the post-COVID-19 workplace looks like; and fair compensation for the hours we all spend to deliver the news.”
In her memo, Jones said an election was the appropriate next step.
“I respect our employees’ right to decide whether they want to be represented by a union, and I believe our employees should be able to make such an important decision through a standard election process,” Jones wrote. “An election supervised by the government allows all affected employees the chance to express their view on unionizing through a secret ballot. It is important to give everyone who would be included the chance to understand what this would mean before making their choice.”
On Friday, WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson repeated the call for voluntary recognition from MSNBC.
“MSNBC needs to follow its own progressive principles and honor the decision made by its editorial employees to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East,” Peterson said. “These are smart, engaged people who came to their decision after months of informed conversations, and a super-majority declared their support publicly by signing a petition. We urge management to correct its course and recognize the union voluntarily, promptly.”
The jobs that the WGA East hopes to cover at MSNBC include news writers as well as talent bookers, fact checkers as well as booking producers and planners. Those jobs have not been covered by union contracts at MSNBC over the 25 years since the cabler launched in 1996 as a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft.
The WGA East hopes to make inroads at MSNBC after historically being kept mostly out of NBCUniversal although it does represent writers at NBC News Studios, which produces unscripted programs for various outlets. On the other hand, the WGA East has had a foothold representing writers at CBS News and ABC News since the guild was founded in 1954.
Writers who work for NBC News digital platforms (which are distinct from MSNBC operations) rallied in December 2019 and are now represented by the Communications Workers of America’s NewsGuild arm.
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