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WGA: Comcast trying to ‘destroy’ guild

Guild blasts conglom over its opposition to unionization

The Writers Guild of America West has blasted Comcast over the conglom’s opposition to the guild’s efforts to unionize shows at Comcast Entertainment Group.

In a message posted on the WGA West website Sunday, board members Chip Johannessen and Patric Verrone accused Comcast of attempting to “destroy” the guild. The missive came three months after Comcast officially turned down the WGA’s request for recognition on the Comcast shows and a month after Comcast closed its deal to obtain a majority stake in NBC Universal.

The WGA has asserted that it has obtained authorization cards from 80% of the writers on the shows, which include “Attack of the Show,” “Chelsea Lately,” “E! News,” “E! Specials,” “Fashion Police,” “G4 Specials,” “The Dish,” “The Soup,” “Web Soup” and “X-Play.” Comcast has said it would not give recognition to the WGA unless it filed a petition for a secret ballot election with the National Labor Relations Board.

In response, a rep for NBC Universal said Monday, “We have no further comment at this time.”

Johannessen and Verrone began the missive with a quote from Sid Sheinberg, who said during the 1988 WGA strike while he was president of Universal Studios, “If the Writers Guild didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it.”

The duo asserted that Sheinberg understood the role that the WGA and other unions play in Hollywood but that Comcast doesn’t.

“This guild-based ecosystem works to everyone’s advantage, including the companies,” they said. “It makes our industry possible. Because talented people won’t follow their dreams here if, after 20 years of working, they’ve got nothing to show for it. And without the talent pool, everything dries up. Universal’s new owners don’t get that.”

Johannessen and Verrone asserted that Comcast’s stance toward the WGA contrasts with promises its execs made during federal merger hearings.

“It is now clear that they’re not interested in maintaining Hollywood’s union environment,” the pair said. “What they’re interested in is the same kind of foot-dragging, strong-arm tactics and deceit they’ve deployed against every effort to unionize elsewhere.”

The message concluded by asking members to support the unionization drive.

“With what’s at stake and considering the way Comcast is behaving, our task should be an easy one, and we know we can count you in,” it said. “Sid Sheinberg saw this industry’s need to invent our guild; Comcast sees only a need to destroy it.”

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