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Writers Guild East Accuses NBC News of Undermining Union With Peacock Productions Shutdown

NBC News - Quibi
Courtesy of NBC News

The Writers Guild of America East is accusing NBC News of union-busting.

The organization has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing NBCUniversal of undermining the union that was in place at the now shut-down Peacock Productions, an in-house non-fiction production unit. WGAE wants the collective bargaining agreement that applied to Peacock Productions to remain in place at a new production operation NBC News unveiled earlier this year.

“This cynical maneuver is intended to bust the union, to continue the company’s years-long effort to reject its employees’ decision to be part of the WGAE and to bargaining collectively on critical workplace issues,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGA East, in a prepared statement. “Freelance employees creating nonfiction programs must be covered by the WGAE collective bargaining agreement, which was the product of years of struggle by freelance writer-producers and which protects their interests and reflects real gains in employment terms and conditions.”

“We have not seen the filing yet, but based on what’s in press reports, we strongly refute what’s being alleged,” NBC News said in a statement. “We have, in writing, requested to meet several times with the WGA East, and they have not responded. We continue to welcome the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with them.”

NBC News said in January that it would shut down Peacock Productions, a longstanding operation that had a hand in such things as broadcasting a tightrope walk by daredevil Nik Wallenda and various true-crime series, including one anchored by Tamron Hall that was shown on the Investigation Discovery cable outlet. Approximately 32 staffers who worked for Peacock Productions or MSNBC’s long-form unit were said to be affected, and some of them were offered jobs in other NBC News businesses, including NBC News Now, a recently launched streaming-news unit.

NBC News unveiled a new production operation, NBC News Studios, quickly after announcing the shuttering of Peacock Productions.

WGAE said it had long worked to unionize Peacock Productions, but NBC management “refused to honor the employees’ decision and spent years fighting against it at the National Labor Relations Board.” But in January of last year, employees at Peacock ratified a collective bargaining agreement.

Because many writers and producers who worked at Peacock will work for the new production unit, WGAE said, “NBC News is continuing the work of Peacock Productions under a different banner, using Peacock Productions employees.”

WGAE is seeking for its contract to be applied to freelance producers and associate producers who were hired and might be hired in the future at NBC News Studios.