NLRB nixes IA charge vs. Shukovsky English

Diane English and Joel Shukovsky scored a first-round knockdown yesterday in their fight against the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

After a three-month investigation, the Los Angeles office of the National Labor Relations Board shelved a complaint filed by several former employees on “Love and War” that, in essence, had accused the producers of union-busting.

The NLRB explained the move by citing a lack of evidence that the producers had violated the law.

“I think this decision proves that we have not discriminated against union members on this show,” said John Drinkwater, exec VP and general counsel at Shukovsky English Entertainment.

Union officials disagreed, saying they believed the decision resulted from a “woefully inadequate” investigation by NLRB officials. They say they will file an appeal within the next two to three weeks with the NLRB’s Office of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

“The battle is far from over,” said Bruce Doering, business rep for IA Camera Local 659. “This decision is a complete travesty that was factually false in its conclusions.”

In the decision, NLRB officers stated that part of the evidence provided by the union–namely testimony from several former employees concerning statements by the show’s production manager that the sitcom would be non-union–could not be considered because it was not offered in a timely fashion.

For statements to be considered by the agency, they have to be made and filed with the office within a six-month period.

Yet NLRB officials added that even if they had been able to consider such testimony, they probably would have reached the same conclusion.

In other words, since SEE was not a signatory company to collective bargaining, it was reasonable for its production manager, John Whitman, to ask if “applicants (who are union members) might need to obtain clearance from the union to work on the show.”

According to IA claims, the crew for the pilot was 75% union, but for the series, it’s only 20%. SEE said it fired the pilot crew in response to threats of a strike and when it came time to hiring for the series, 14 members of the pilot crew were rehired, while others were unavailable.

The NLRB sided with the producers in this issue, but the union said it had provided testimony from the employees in question that they had never been contacted for rehire.

SEE contends it is doing what is best for its employees.

“We came up with a terrific Blue Shield health and dental plan for our crew once the show was picked up beyond the initial 13 episodes,” Drinkwater said (it went into effect Dec. 1). “They don’t have to wait to accumulate 600 hours in six months, which many of our employees couldn’t do. They have life insurance and disability insurance and a 401K retirement plan.”

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