Writers Guild East Accuses NBCUniversal of Union-Busting

NBC News Studios at Rockefeller Plaza - Getty 1- H 2019
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The unfair labor practice charge stems from the company's closure of Peacock Productions in January.

The Writers Guild of America East on Wednesday filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board that accuses NBCUniversal of union-busting over the January closure of the nonfiction production unit Peacock Productions.

The move follows a February request for more information about the nature of the union-shop shuttering. Peacock Productions — which had been unionized since 2016 — was replaced by NBC News Studios, a production unit that produces documentaries, documentary series, some scripted programs and programs for "emerging platforms."

The WGAE is demanding that NBCUniversal "continue to apply the Guild's collective bargaining agreement to the company's 'new' nonfiction production company."

The guild learned from NBCUniversal that several former Peacock Productions employees will work for NBC News Studios, which will be led by the same producer.

"Thus, NBC News is continuing the work of Peacock Productions under a different banner, using Peacock Productions employees," the guild said Wednesday. "There is one key difference: The company is refusing to apply the WGAE collective bargaining agreement to any of those employees."

Lowell Peterson, executive director of the guild, said, "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. 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."

NBCUniversal said in response to the filing, "We have not seen the filing yet, but based on what’s in press reports, we strongly refute what’s being alleged. 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."

April 15, 10:30 a.m. Updated with NBC's statement.