Strike Threatens CBS News Debate


Not another debate? Say it isn’t so.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards said that they will not cross picket lines for a CBS-sponsored debate in Los Angeles on Dec. 10 if the network’s newswriters go out on strike.

The Writers Guild of America East represents some 500 newswriters, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers and researchers in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. They have been working without a contract for 2 1/2 years, but recently voted overwhelming to authorize a strike, which could be called at any time.

Clinton said in a statement, “The workers at CBS News have been without a contract for close to two-and-a-half years. It is my hope that both sides will reach an agreement that results in a secure contract for the workers at CBS News, but let me be clear: I will honor the picket line if the workers at CBS News decide to strike. America’s unions are the backbone of America’s middle class, and I will always stand with America’s working men and women in the fight to ensure that they are able to earn a fair wage.”

The Obama campaign issued this statement, “If CBS News is unable to reach an agreement with its workers and they decide to strike, Barack Obama will not cross the picket line to attend the debate.”

The CBS News contract is separate from the contract that the Writers Guild of America has with Hollywood studios to represent screenwriters and TV writers. Their strike began on Nov. 5.

Edwards, the lone presidential candidate to have so far joined the picket lines in the current WGA strike, also announced that he was cancelling an appearance on ABC’s “The View” because of the strike. The show has continued production even though other talk shows have gone dark.

“Elizabeth and I will honor the members of the Writers Guild of America who are on strike at ‘The View’ by canceling our appearance on the show next week. I call on all of my fellow candidates and their campaigns to do the same.”

“In addition, we will also honor any picket lines at CBS News, up to and including the CBS presidential debate on December 10th. As I said when I walked the WGA picket line in California last Friday, these workers are making a simple request for their fair share of the huge profits being made by multinational media corporations.

“I am a strong believer in collective bargaining, and I hope that in each of these disputes, management and the union are able to agree on a just settlement. But until those settlements are reached, I will stand firmly with these workers in their fight for a better life.”

The Writers Guild of America East obviously is grateful for the news, and put a holiday spin on it all.

“They have given us more reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving,” the org says. “We hope everyone follows their leads.”

Update: According to the WGAE, Michelle Obama also has cancelled a co-hosting appearance on “The View.”

Bill Richardson also is sitting out the debate if the newswriters strike.

“Supporting workers’ rights is more important than anything I will say at the debate.”

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