A group of more than 300 MSNBC employees are mounting a unionization drive with the Writers Guild of America East to represent writers, talent bookers, fact-checkers and others in editorial at NBCUniversal’s all-news cable network.
On Thursday, a group dubbed @MSNBCUnion posted a letter on social media signed by more than 200 employees that called on NBCUniversal parent Comcast to voluntarily recognize the WGA East as the collective bargaining agent for about 315 employees of MSNBC and the news program “The Choice,” which airs on NBCU’s Peacock streamer.
Unionization is “the best way to ensure a fair equitable and safe workplace,” the letter stated. The focus of WGA East’s collective bargaining will be “to advocate for equal pay for equal work and work/life balance that meet our families’ needs; diversity at every level of production; clear job descriptions and access to career development; a say in what the post-COVID-19 workplace looks like; and fair compensation for the hours we all spend to deliver the news.”
On Friday, WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson repeated the call for voluntary recognition from MSNBC. If not, the employees will move to holding an election that may involve the National Labor Relations Board.
“MSNBC needs to follow its own progressive principles and honor the decision made by its editorial employees to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East,” Peterson said. “These are smart, engaged people who came to their decision after months of informed conversations, and a super-majority declared their support publicly by signing a petition. We urge management to correct its course and recognize the union voluntarily, promptly.”
Representatives for MSNBC and NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The jobs that the WGA East hopes to cover at MSNBC include news writers as well as talent bookers, fact checkers as well as booking producers and planners. Those jobs have not been covered by union contracts at MSNBC over the 25 years since the cabler launched in 1996 as a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft.
The WGA East hopes to make inroads at MSNBC after historically being kept mostly at bay by NBCUniversal although it does represent writers at NBC News Studios, which produces unscripted programs for various outlets. On the other hand, the WGA East has had a foothold representing writers at CBS News and ABC News since the guild was founded in 1954.
Writers who work for NBC News digital platforms (which are distinct from MSNBC operations) rallied in December 2019 and are now represented by the Communications Workers of America’s NewsGuild arm.