AFTRA charges CBS with federal law violations

Benefit alterations leave Eye looking at NLRA breach

NEW YORK — The national office of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA), AFL/CIO, and nine of its local chapters — including L.A. and Gotham — are charging that CBS has violated the National Labor Relations Act.

On Friday, AFTRA offices representing network correspondents as well as local CBS TV and radio stations filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the Eye web broke federal law when it altered benefit plans (including medical, dental, 401k and disability) without first bargaining with the union.

“We have to do whatever we can to protect our members,” AFTRA national spokesman Kim Roberts said of the move.

Talks continue

CBS and AFTRA execs both say negotiations are ongoing, with any formal movement by the NLRB sure to be months in the making. Sources indicated the union may have filed charges at this time to bolster their bargaining and legal positions with the web and its O&Os.

“Certainly we are aware of time limits and would not to jeopardize our members’ rights,” Roberts said. “But (CBS) should not be surprised by our action this week — they know we’ve been against what they did with benefits for some time.”

The union is seeking reinstatement of a previous benefits package until “such time as the company satisfies its legal obligation to bargain in good faith.” It also seeks to have affected employees “made whole” for any losses suffered during this period.

In works since the fall

“These changes were announced last fall, and we’ve been negotiating the details for months,” CBS senior veep of corporate relations Jack Bergen said. “In their minds, we should have gotten union permission before making the changes, but we’re confident we’ll be able to answer union concerns.”

In addition to the formal NLRB complaints filed Friday, overall contract negotiations at the CBS network, and in L.A., New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston remain unresolved.

“Just about everyone is either already at, or about to go to the table,” Roberts said.

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