Writers Guild East and NBC News Reach Agreement on New Nonfiction Unit

NBC News Studios at Rockefeller Plaza - Getty 3- H 2019
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The guild's coverage of producers at NBC News Studios represents an end to a contentious labor battle over the demise of Peacock Productions.

NBC and the WGA East have laid down their swords over the shuttering of Peacock Productions earlier this year and the guild's subsequent claims of union-busting.

The WGA announced on Thursday that the guild and NBC News Studios had reached an agreement such that freelance and associate producers, run-of-show producers and casting producers working at the studios on television and some online productions would be covered under a collective bargaining agreement that originally applied to those working at the late Peacock Productions.

"We are pleased that this important nonfiction programming will be covered by our collective bargaining agreement,” WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson said in a statement. “This will ensure that the freelance and run-of-show producers, associate producers, and casting producers will enjoy union-negotiated pay minimums and other workplace protections, and will participate in a portable health benefits plan like their colleagues at other nonfiction shops.”

The agreement follows a contentious war of words over the demise of Peacock Productions in January. After the unionized nonfiction production unit was shut down, the WGA East filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that a new production entity, NBC News Studios, was producing similar content without a union contract. In April the feud escalated, with the Writers Guild alleging that NBC was "union-busting" in an unfair labor practices complaint filed with the NLRB.

Peacock Productions produced shows for an array of NBC-affiliated channels, including American Swamp for MSNBC and the special Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact for Lifetime. Led by Dateline executive producer Liz Cole, NBC News Studios has a deal with Focus Features to produce cinematic documentaries, as well as one with Blumhouse Television for scripted content.

While unionized producers on nonfiction titles are rare on the West Coast, the WGA East has unionized several nonfiction companies, including Lion Television, Sharp Entertainment, Viceland, Vox Entertainment, Kirkstall Road Enterprises and Leftfield Pictures.