Comcast Writers Vote Overwhelmingly for WGA in Unofficial Secret Ballot

About 75 percent of eligible writers voted in an unusual procedure supervised by L.A. City Council president Eric Garcetti.

City Council president Eric Garcetti has granted a request by the WGA to supervise a secret ballot union election by writers on Comcast’s E!, Style and G4 network shows.

Garcetti announced the results Wednesday at a City Hall news conference: 46 writers voted in favor of WGA representation, with one voting against. The WGA told THR that the total number of eligible writers was 60-65.

Comcast has rebuffed efforts to unionize the writers.

In an interview with THR, Garcetti emphasized that he was not taking a side in the unionization dispute but hoped for “a swift resolution.” He said that “decent wages and benefits are a good thing for everyone in L.A.” and pointed out that “government picks up the pieces” when workers don’t have necessary health insurance, for example.

Similarly, The Soup writer Greg Fideler told THR that the writers want “portable pension and health benefits, fair minimums and fair reuse payments (i.e., residuals).”

A Comcast spokesperson told THR in a statement that the ballot was "a non-binding poll in direct conflict with the NLRB-sanctioned process for union organizing." Comcast added that "which employees are eligible to vote is a matter determined not by the union, as was done here, but by the NLRB."

Comcast has previously said that the company would “follow federal labor law, which provides for a government-supervised secret ballot election.” That process contemplates supervision by the National Labor Relations Board, not City Hall.

In today's statement, Comcast said that the WGA had not begun the NLRB representation process.

WGA West executive director David Young has previously said that “NLRB (representation) elections are banana republic affairs that are held after a period of delay that employers use to terrorize workers and threaten their jobs. Such elections make a mockery of free choice.”

In addition, a group calling themselves the Organized Writers of Comcast Entertainment Group has asserted that requiring a ballot is counter to custom and practice in the industry.

A more expedited process, called card check, had been one of the labor movement’s goals when President Obama was first elected, but the proposal (the Employee Free Choice Act) never gained sufficient traction. Garcetti noted that he is in favor of card check.

A number of unionized NBC Universal writers have signed a letter of support for the Comcast writers, who will become their corporate colleagues if the merger between the companies is approved. Garcetti said he is in favor of the merger and added that Comcast is “a great company” that he hopes to welcome to Los Angeles.

The Dish writer Penelope Lombard said, “As professional writers, we're only asking for what our counterparts at NBC Universal have. We've selected the WGA West to represent us, and we expect Comcast to honor our decision.”

Fideler acknowledged that, at least on his show, the writers have creative freedom and good working conditions. But he emphasized that he hopes the company would recognize Wednesday’s results and sit down with the WGA.

The Comcast shows that the guild seeks to organize are Attack of the Show, Chelsea Lately, E! News, E! Specials, Fashion Police, G4 Specials, The Dish, The Soup, Web Soup and X-Play.

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