WGA Strike: The Official NLRB Complaint

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WGA Strike: The Official NLRB Complaint

Fri Dec 14, 2007 @ 12:53PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Wga_labor_060506 Today comes news that the WGA has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the AMPTP "for its refusal to bargain in good faith" during the ongoing work stoppage.

According to the WGA, producers issued an "ultimatum" and threatened to break off talks if AMPTP didn't take certain issues, such as reality TV and animation jurisdiction, off the table. As evidence, the WGA offers this letter by Nick Counter, president of the producers’ alliance. In the letter, Counter references the fact that AMPTP wants the WGA to pull back certain demands -- "six issues" -- before "negotiations can proceed further."

In the cover letter to its official charge document, WGA West general counsel (and THR Power Lawyer!) Tony Segall writes "The NLRB has long held that an employer may not require a union to resolve specific proposals as a precondition to discussing other subjects."

Simple, right?

Not so fast. In its statement, the AMPTP blasted the WGA for "pounding the table" with a "baseless, desperate NLRB complaint." The statement didn't include any rationale for declaring the NLRB complaint as such.

Let's take a gander at what producers might argue: Negotiators are only required by the NLRB to meet and bargain in good faith on "mandatory" issues. Parties are not required to meet on non-mandatory issues. One issue that falls under the latter category is so-called "recognition clauses" that establish who the union is representing. (see Labor Board v. Borg-Warner Corp.) The WGA's demand that it cover reality and animation writers could fall under this type.

In any case, it could take 45 days for an  NLRB hearing to be scheduled before an administrative law judge, and many more months for an appeal. Could it be that the NLRB complaint is a showy act of brinksmanship more than anything else.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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