WGA in Organizing Struggle with Comcast

E!, Style, and G4 writers seek immediate guild representation; Comcast refuses, and is forcing a government-supervised secret ballot election.

Cable entertainment writers at Comcast Entertainment Group are seeking WGA representation and the cable giant is resisting, insisting on a ballot supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

The writers, who create programming for CEG networks E!, Style, and G4, say that 80% of the affected writing staff have signed cards requesting representation by the guild.

In response, Comcast’s human resources department sent an email yesterday to all employees of the three cable networks, declaring that Comcast would not “instantly recognize” the WGA, and would instead require that a formal representation ballot be conducted. A group calling themselves the Organized Writers of Comcast Entertainment Group asserts that requiring a ballot is counter to custom and practice in the industry.

Comcast’s email said the company would “reach out to those of you who would be part of the units that the WGA want to represent. We will discuss how a unionized environment may affect you. We are committed to providing all employees with current, relevant and truthful information about the issues the union will raise as part of their campaign.”

The WGA, which confirmed the 80% figure, slammed the company for requiring an election. In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, WGA West executive director David Young said in a statement 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.”

Young asserted that “Comcast has consistently proven in their dealings with unions nationally that they embrace this model of intimidation. This is one of many reasons why Comcast's proposed merger with NBC-Uni should be opposed, including via anti-trust litigation.”

A Comcast spokesperson responded in a statement that the WGA’s request to bypass the NLRB election process “is not fair to our employees (and would not) afford them the opportunity to make an informed decision.”

The Comcast Entertainment Group writers point out that writers at NBC Universal networks such as SyFy, Bravo, and USA are unionized, and describe it as unacceptable for CEG writers to work alongside them but not have a union contract.