Monday, August 8, 2011

Another Big Win For WGAE!

Creative Professionals Working on Shows for Animal Planet, Food Network, National Geographic and Travel Channel Vote to Join Writers Guild East

First Contract Negotiations to Begin at Two Nonfiction TV Production Companies

Employees who write and produce nonfiction television shows including Monsters Inside Me, Samantha Brown’s Great Weekends and Worst Cooks in America for the production company Optomen Television have voted to be represented by the Writers Guild of America, East. Staff at three other nonfiction TV production companies have already voted for Guild representation. First contract negotiations at two of the companies, Atlas Media and Lion Television are set to begin on Thursday and Monday, respectively.

“We are excited that the talented people of Optomen have voted to join the Writers Guild, East. Theirs is the latest in a series of Guild election victories in the realm of non-fiction television. We look forward to working with them and to continue reaching out to the many creative men and women of non-fiction production” said WGAE President Michael Winship.

The National Labor Relations Board election at Optomen took place in December but a final vote count had been hung up in procedural delays. The final ballot was unsealed this afternoon giving the Writers Guild a majority of votes. A formal certification of the result by the NLRB is expected shortly.

WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson will lead the union’s bargaining team in negotiations with Lion and Atlas.

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit

WGAE Contact:
Elana Levin

Friday, August 5, 2011


NEW YORK CITY - The writers on the Onion News Network have joined the community of funnypersons represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO. The WGAE and ONN management negotiated a first-ever collective bargaining agreement covering the show, which will air on the Independent Film Channel beginning in September.

“The ONN writers stood together and won real improvements,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson. “We welcome them into the WGAE and we look forward to a productive relationship with the company.” Peterson noted that more than 70 Guild members from all of the New York-based comedy shows signed a letter supporting the ONN writers, and hundreds of Guild members sent emails to the producers.

The agreement will increase minimum weekly compensation and provide pension and health contributions, retroactive to the start of writing earlier this summer. The producers also agreed to add writers and writing weeks, furthering the parties’ mutual goal of creating the best possible program.

The ONN’s second season begins on September 30. There will be ten weekly episodes.

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit

WGAE Contact:
Elana Levin
Director of Communications


Labor’s Decline and Wage Inequality


The decline in organized labor’s power and membership has played a larger role in fostering increased wage inequality in the United States than is generally thought, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review this month.
The study, “Unions, Norms and the Rise in U.S. Wage Inequality,” found that the decline in union power and density since 1973 explained a third of the increase in wage inequality among men since then, and a fifth of the increased inequality among women.

The study noted that from 1973 to 2007, union membership in the private sector dropped to 8 percent from 34 percent among men and to 6 percent from 16 percent among women. During that time, wage inequality in the private sector increased by more than 40 percent, the study found.

While many academics argue that increased inequality in educational attainment has played a major role in expanding wage inequality, the new study reaches a surprising conclusion, saying, “The decline of the U.S. labor movement has added as much to men’s wage inequality as has the relative increase in pay for college graduates.” The study adds that “union decline contributes just half as much as education to the overall rise in women’s wage inequality.”

The study was written by Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, and Jake Rosenfeld, a sociology professor at the University of Washington.

The two professors found that the decline of organized labor held down wages in union and nonunion workplaces alike. Many nonunion employers — especially decades ago, when unions represented more than 30 percent of the private sector work force — raised wages to help avert the threat of union organizing.

Moreover, the study argues that when unions were larger and had a far greater voice in politics and society, they played a more influential role in advocacy on wages across the economy, for instance, in pushing to raise the minimum wage.

“In the early 1970s, when one in three male workers were organized, unions were often prominent voices for equity, not just for their members, but for all workers,” the two professors wrote. “Union decline marks an erosion of the moral economy and its underlying distributional norms. Wage inequality in the nonunion sector increased as a result.”

The two professors note that the decline of unions is part of a common account of rising inequality that is often contrasted with a market explanation that includes technological change, immigration and foreign trade. They argue that the market explanation usually understates the role of organized labor’s decline on increased inequality.

The study notes that in the 1970s, some skilled-trades unions and construction unions helped to increased inequality through exclusionary practices that reinforced racial and ethnic inequalities. But the study said that, over all, unions in the United States had been an important force for reducing inequality — although not as much as unions in Europe, which have more influence in politics and society.

The authors found that the biggest factor in the decline in unions’ power and density was job growth outside traditional labor strongholds like manufacturing, construction and transportation. They added that another important reason for the decline of organized labor was that “employers in unionized industries intensified their opposition” to unionization efforts.

They noted that as unions have grown weaker, there has been less pressure on lawmakers to enact labor-friendly or worker-friendly measures. “As organized labor’s political power dissipates,” the authors wrote, “economic interests in the labor market are dispersed and policy makers have fewer incentives to strengthen unions or otherwise equalize economic rewards.”

After FAA Shutdown Ends, Lobbying Battle Continues

by Peter Overby, NPR

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid
Even as Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid announced a bipartisan compromise to end the shutdown at the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday afternoon, a legislative struggle — and some high-powered lobbying — continued behind the scenes.

Airlines have been struggling this summer because of higher oil prices. Now they're getting a windfall profit thanks to Congress. Although they don't have to pay aviation taxes during the partial FAA shutdown, they have not lowered fares accordingly; they're keeping the difference.

The FAA's funding is usually authorized for a period of years because many of the projects it works on — from runway extensions to revamping the air traffic control system — are multiyear projects with a lot of lead time. The last multiyear reauthorization ended in 2007. Since then, the agency has been given temporary authorizations, and the 20th such temporary measure ran out in June.

The immediate flash point in the fight over the FAA has been the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes flights to some rural airports. House Republicans voted to end the subsidies for 13 communities. Three of them are in states represented by top Democratic senators, including Reid.

But Democrats have said the real battle is over union rights at Delta Air Lines. Sen. Jay Rockefeller's state of West Virginia has one of the targeted airports.

The big issue on a long-term reauthorization is about unions. In 2010, the National Mediation Board overturned a previous ruling relating to how airline employees can vote to join a union. In the past, airline employees who didn't take part in an election on whether or not to join a union were counted as "no" votes. This made it hard for unions to form.

The policy changed in 2010 when the board decided to count only those who actually cast ballots, meaning non-votes were no longer "no" votes. Republicans are balking at this new interpretation, and are trying to attach language to the FAA bill to revert to the old policy. Democrats won't go along. The language relating to unions is not part of the temporary extension the House approved and sent to the Senate in June.

"Most of the big airlines are unionized. Not a problem. One isn't: Delta," says Rockefeller, chairman of the transportation committee.

Unions are trying to organize Delta workers. Last year, the National Mediation Board, which oversees labor practices at the airlines, voted to make organizing easier.

The Air Transport Association — the airlines' lobbying arm — and Delta sued, and lost. Now they're appealing the decision.

This year, House Republicans voted to override the mediation board legislatively. At issue is whether a vote to unionize requires a majority of all union members, or just a majority of those who cast ballots.

Broadcast Union News Note: "Leave it to NPR to screw up the central issue. At issue is whether a vote to unionize requires a majority of all workers in the bargaining unit. If it were "a majority of all union members" the union would win easily." - Alan Hart, Managing Editor, UE News, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

Delta wants the higher threshold. The judge in the case said the mediation board has the power and substantial legal precedent to use the lower one.

Republicans contend the union issue hasn't been the obstacle to funding the FAA.

"You ought to give both the employees, as well as the employer, equal opportunity to make the case," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Fox News on Wednesday. "But again, that's separate from this issue; [it] has to do with subsidies that the federal government is paying."

Delta agrees. In response to an interview request, company officials released a written statement saying the Essential Air Service is "the fundamental issue."

Former Sen., turned Lobbyist, Trent Lott
But Delta's lobbying records suggest another possibility. Last winter, the company hired new lobbyists: the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, one of Washington's most powerful lobby firms. John Breaux was a longtime Democratic senator from Louisiana, and Trent Lott is a veteran of the Senate GOP leadership.

In addition to representing Delta, the Breaux Lott group also signed a contract with the Air Transport Association. Their firm didn't respond to an interview request.

Lobby disclosure documents show the hirings coincided with House action to consider and adopt the anti-union provision.

Delta's lobby team already included a former chief of staff to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and another firm headed by Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf. Elmendorf says he won't discuss whether he's lobbying on the anti-union provision.

"Sometimes you'll talk to Democratic lobbyists who have a corporation. They will tell you they're working on other issues" and not working against the Democrats' closest allies, says AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel.

Delta and the Air Transport Association have spent more than $2.8 million so far this year to lobby Congress."

Delta's always spent a lot of money on Capitol Hill, and obviously there's been some payoff to that, with the way, at least, the Republicans in the House have taken up their cause," Samuel says.

That cause will persist, and so will resistance to it in the Senate, even after today's temporary agreement. And that could stymie the FAA's long-term funding indefinitely.

Broadcast Union News: The FAA’s operating authority expired on July 23, as well as the authority of airlines to collect about $30 million a day in ticket taxes, meaning the government will be unable to collect an estimated $360 million in taxes for the 13 day shutdown that instead created a windfall profit for airlines. 4,000 Federal employees and 14,000 workers in the construction trades lost 2 weeks income. So much for the GOP caring about jobs and the deficit.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Murdoch's Axing of Unions Led to Scandal in the Media

By Eamonn McCann

Michael Delaney (19), died after being run over by a lorry in east London on a Saturday night in January 1987. An inquest jury found that he had been a victim of unlawful killing. But nobody has ever been prosecuted. Michael had been among trade unionists picketing the News International  (NI) Ltd., the United Kingdom newspaper publishing division of News Corporation, plant at Wapping against the sacking of more than 5,000 workers and the derecognition of unions. The dispute lasted almost a year.

The Metropolitan Police worked in coordination with News International executives throughout. Police attacks on the picket-lines were a regular occurrence. Saturday nights

- when it was vital for the company to ensure that its prize asset, the News of the World, reached the shops - saw particularly brutal confrontations. In at least one instance, mounted police cavalry-charged directly into the pickets to clear a path for lorry-loads of copies of the NotW.

Anyone wondering how the Murdochs and the Met developed a relationship so close it eventually became scandalous- that's how. Anyone wondering how the "newsroom culture" which facilitated phone-hacking developed - here's how.

Murdoch's still unproven, allegation at the time was that the print unions had been destroying the newspaper industry through overstaffing, signing in "ghost workers", falsely claiming for overtime and general skiving. Thus the need for a midnight flit from the company's King's Cross office to purpose-built premises at Wapping. The dodgy activities of some print workers were of little importance to Murdoch. What irked him was union organisation, specifically, the print unions' ability to defend members. Getting rid of a bolshie father or mother of chapel (shop steward) was no easy matter. But the myth of Murdoch saving the industry from union malpractice has persisted.

Rupert Murdoch

The day the move to Wapping was announced, journalists met in the King's Cross newsroom. 'Refusniks' argued that journalists' rights and standards would be shredded if they collaborated with management in destroying the printers' organisation. Others maintained the printers brought their problems on themselves. The key speech came from Sunday Times editor Andrew Neill who made an impassioned plea for journalists to save the papers. The Wapping move was a done deal: if the journalists didn't go along, the papers would collapse.

Mr Neill has been among those commenting on the current debacle who have been anxious to make the point that, say what you like about Murdoch, he did save the newspaper industry back in the 1980s. I suppose he can hardly say anything else.

Journalists discovered as they walked into Wapping that, individually, they too were now on their own. One story from the last fortnight has been of sports reporter Matt Driscoll, sacked in 1987 while on sick leave for depression arising from humiliation heaped on him by the then editor Andy Coulson.

An employment tribunal heard how representatives of NI visited him at home while he was ill in a way which deepened his anxiety.

That would not have happened if the newsroom had been unionised. Reporter Charles Begley has recalled being ordered to dress up as Harry Potter for a conference at the News of the World (NotW) in 2001 - the paper wanted to capitalise on the boy wizard's commercial potential. Begley's humiliation was excruciating. That wouldn't have happened either in a unionised newsroom.

Former NotW showbiz reporter and whistleblower Sean Hoare, who died last week, described for Panorama the pattern of bullying and the relentless demand for exclusives no matter how they'd been obtained. He had had nobody on the paper to turn to - which wouldn't have been the case in a unionised workplace.

The absence of any organised expression of the distinct interests and concerns of journalists meant management priorities could be imposed at will. Journalists were hired on short-term contracts, typically of a year or six months. There was no need for any sacking procedure.

Anyone who didn't prove as malleable as the Murdochs, Brooks and Coulsons demanded would be cast adrift when their contract expired. The result was, as phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire has put it, "fear all the time"

That wouldn't have happened if the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) had been on hand.

The assault on the right to union representation has been central to the development of the ethos which generated the scandal. The reason this aspect hasn't been front and centre in coverage is that to acknowledge the necessity of trade unionism would be to take discussion of the issues which arise down a path where, even today, few want to go.

Read more:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Congress and the White House Reach Debt Ceiling Deal with No Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

Congressional leaders have come to a compromise with the White House signing off the deal with all sides not getting what they want but at least  no longer threatening the United States Government with defaulting on its obligations until 2013.

The deal reached includes raising the U.S. debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion and slashes government spending by $2.4 trillion or more, without cutting Social Security and Medicare nor raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

It is not the best deal for Democrats but it is not the best deal for Republicans either. When you compromise, that is usually the case.

Summary Of The Deal:

1) The U.S. economy is no longer threatened by default until 2013

2) 10-year discretionary spending caps (defense and non-defense) generating nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction

3) $350 Billion from the Base Defense Budget – the First Defense Cut Since the 1990s.

4) Protection in the discretionary budget for the Pell Grants that will award a maximum of $5,550 per student, helping over 9 million students pay for college tuition.

5) Increases the debt limit by $2.1 trillion to meet financial obligations

6) No debt ceiling increase drama until a year after the 2012 election.

7) Creates a bipartisan committee to identifying an additional $1.5 trillion (which is part of the $2.4 trillion package) in deficit reduction, including from entitlement and tax reform, on which Congress is to vote by December 23, 2011.

8) If the bipartisan committee fails, an enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions of $1.2 Trillion in Deficit Reduction beginning in 2013 that will include a 50/50 cut between domestic and defense spending.

9) Enforcement mechanisms protect Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts and these programs are off limits to any sequester.

10) About the sequester if the the bipartisan committee fails:

Sequester Would Provide a Strong Incentive for Both Sides to Come to the Table:

If the fiscal committee took no action, the deal would automatically add nearly $500 billion in defense cuts on top of cuts already made, and, at the same time, it would cut critical programs like infrastructure or education. That outcome would be unacceptable to many Republicans and Democrats alike – creating pressure for a bipartisan agreement without requiring the threat of a default with unthinkable consequences for our economy.

Here is the bottom line. The President has negotiated a deal with all parties involved in this conflict and his willingness to compromise in the wee hours has paid off to ensure that the United States Governments' treasury won't be forced to default on its legal obligations which would have caused catastrophic damage to the economy. Moreover, it has resulted in

1)  No discontinuance of Medicaid payments payments to States,

2) No discontinuance of U.S. Military salaries and retirement benefits,

3) No discontinuance of Social Security payments and Medicare benefits,

4) No discontinuance of Veterans' benefits,

5) No discontinuance of Federal Civil Service Salaries and Retirement benefits,

6) No discontinuance of payments to Unemployment benefits to States,

7) No discontinuance of interest and principle payments on Treasury Bonds and other securities or Student Loan payments,

8) No increased interest rates on Government, Corporate and Consumer borrowing,

9) No potential decline in equity prices, home values and retirement accounts, and

10) No increase in loss of jobs,

11) No increase in the reluctance of businesses to continue to make new investments and spend to spur the economy.

Okay, this bill does not require the wealthy to pay their fair share, nor does it close any of the tax law loopholes that allow 75% of American corporations to pay no taxes at all while reaping billions in subsidies. This bill will wreak havoc on educational programs, cost over a million jobs at a time where more Americans are out of work than at any time since the Great Depression, and cuts benefits to those unemployed, but at least it leaves the Federal government solvent and we are now able to gear up to continue the fight. 

It is hard as it is to try to get anything through Congress with Republicans in power. However, what Democrats have accomplished with the cards they have been dealt, while some critics think President Obama has deceived us all year long, is that the United States Government is not in default status. The "full faith and credit of the United States of America" still means something good, solid, and true.

President Obama commented that "We have removed the cloud of uncertainty over our economy at this critical time by ensuring that no one will be able to use the threat of the nation’s first default now, or in only a few months, for political gain."

For a little dose of truth to those who think compromise is a dirty word, read the fact sheet below at your leisure instead of throwing a tantrum, whining, and complaining about how President Obama and his Administration threw us all under the bus.

Better yet, try to spend a fraction of your time pouncing on the Republicans you are technically aiding by throwing President Obama under the bus. That would be what I would call a progressive movement showing what they really stand for.

If you want to contribute to electing more and better Democrats, start by registering new voters for the next round of elections coming up soon. Become a Democratic District Leader to help pick better, stronger candidates. Participate in a "Get Out The Vote" campaign to make sure Democrats get off their butts and go the polls on election day.

Having the majority in both the House and Senate is the only way we can change the direction of our politics. Until then, rest assured that although the agenda will be framed by the current GOP majority and you will just be the same old you for the next 18 months, the opportunity for change comes up every November.

We have a lot of work to do, let's get to it.

Article from "The People's View" with italicized comments by Broadcast Union News.

WPIX to Air 5 p.m. Newscast Starting in September

By Jerry Barmash

WPIX/Channel 11 is expanding its weekday news coverage. Beginning in early September, FishbowlNY has learned, the station is adding a 5 p.m. newscast each afternoon.

A WPIX spokeswoman says an anchor for the newscast hasn’t been chosen. But a likely candidate is Jodi Applegate, the face of Channel 11. She joined WPIX last October to solo anchor the reconstituted 10 p.m. news.

A source close to the situation tells FishbowlNY the new, one-hour broadcast will target women.

WPIX joins a crowded, competitive field in the 5 o’clock hour. Along with time slot regulars WCBS/Channel 2, WNYW/Channel 5, and WABC/Channel 7, WNBC/Channel 4 is returning to news at 5 p.m. in September, and shifting New York Live to 3 p.m.

This isn’t Channel 11′s first attempt at early evening news. News director Bill Carey  had an eight-month run at 6:30 p.m. On weekends, WPIX maintains an hourly 6 p.m. newscast with Jim Watkins that started in September 2010.

WPIX currently shows reruns of Friends at 5 p.m. each day.