Thursday, August 6, 2009

CWA Newsletter: TNG-CWA Wins Landmark E-Mail Case After 9-Year Battle

"CWA Communications Department"

In a big victory for TNG-CWA members in Oregon, the U.S. Court of Appeals not only upheld their appeal over union use of company e-mail, it also slammed the infamous union-busting lawyer who told managers to pursue the case.

The Washington D.C. Court's sharply worded July decision characterized lawyer Michael Zinser's arguments as "simply more distortion than the words can bear." Zinser is known for trying to break newspaper unions.
The case began at the Eugene Register-Guard in 2000, when managers disciplined the president of TNG-CWA Local 37194 for using the company's e-mail system to send three e-mails about Guild business.

The e-mails were sent after work hours.

The Guild filed unfair labor practice charges, but the then Bush-dominated NLRB vote sided with the company over two of the mailings.

The company claimed that e-mail could only be used for business purposes, but the Guild was able to present abundant evidence that the company's e-mail system was used by both employees and managers for a wide assortment of news – from baby shower invitations to requests for United Way volunteers.

The evidence proved the union was the only exception, and the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed. Its decision showed irritation not only with Zinser but with the NLRB, saying the board's rationale smacked of "a post hoc invention."

"The court's decision made it clear that the company had discriminated based on union activity," TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said. "I was at the Court of Appeals when Michael Zinser presented his case, and a jury of kindergarteners could have seen through it. He tried to argue that the union was a special case and could be barred from communicating by company e-mail, even though everyone else was allowed to use it freely."

NABET-CWA to Union-Busting NBC: 'We'll Walk and Take Advertisers With Us'

In a move to bust the union, NBC is demanding a change in job titles but not work functions so it can remove positions from the bargaining unit.

Undeterred, NABET-CWA members at network-owned stations in four cities have voted overwhelmingly to strike, if necessary.

NABET-CWA Vice President Jim Joyce said NBC has unilaterally switched some jobs to the vague title of "content producer" and wants to switch many more, potentially affecting 200 workers. "The work itself doesn't change; people are largely doing the same jobs they've been doing through their careers as editors, news photographers and news writers," he said. "But they are being forced to reapply as 'content producers' with no union contract." The union has filed numerous unfair labor practice charges against NBC.

The workers plan to increase informational picketing outside NBC studios that employ 2,500 NABET members in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, NABET-CWA President John Clark says the union is contacting newsmakers and advertisers asking them to boycott NBC.

"The favorable strike authorization vote shows that our membership understands the significance and danger of the issues confronting us in these negotiations," Clark said. "We will do everything we can to defeat NBC Universal's attempt at union-busting, including the hand-billing of on-air sponsors to inform them of the dispute, and contacting labor-friendly politicians and other public figures to request that they not appear on NBC's news shows."

Bargaining began in September, six months before the contract expired on March 31, 2009. Talks so far have failed to get NBC to budge on critical issues. Besides trying to take away work NABET members have done for decades, the company wants changes in the seniority system that could hurt career workers.

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