CBS News staffers OK strike vote

Employees have been without a contract since 2005


UPDATED 9:54 p.m. PT Nov. 19, 2007

NEW YORK -- After working without a contract for more than two years, CBS News employees represented by the WGA East have approved a strike through an authorization vote.

Eighty-one% of the 75%-80% of the union's rank and file who turned out in a special election Thursday and Friday voted to authorize the strike. That, however, doesn't mean a strike is imminent. It first would have to be approved by the negotiating committee and upper echelon of the WGA.

The WGA already is in a three-week-old strike with many of its members in a separate union for TV and film writers, which has resulted in picket lines in New York and on the West Coast. The CBS News union's negotiating committee is scheduling a meeting after Thanksgiving to assess the situation, WGAE president Michael Winship said.

The 300 or so employees -- writers, desk assistants, assignment editors and others -- work for CBS network television and radio and local TV and radio stations in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Washington. They have been without a contract since April 2, 2005, and have gone without a pay raise since April 2004.

CBS News said it was unfortunate that its writers had authorized a strike.

"The offer we presented nearly a year ago was fair and reasonable and remains on the table," CBS News said. Winship hoped that the strike-authorization vote would compel CBS back to the bargaining table, where the sides haven't met since January.

"We feel that there are several things that remain on the table in the current contract (offer) that are unacceptable," Winship said. They include CBS' refusal to include retroactive pay in a new contract as well as a two-tiered pay system, one for network TV and radio and the other for local radio.

Winship said the ongoing writers strike doesn't preclude the WGAE from calling another strike with the CBS News employees.

"We are looking at all the options," he said.

CBS News said that it was ready if a strike was called.

"CBS News, CBS Television Stations and CBS Radio remains fully prepared and ready to continue producing the high-quality news programming for our viewers," CBS News said.