NLRB to NBC: Where’s the Beef?


a dispute arising out of the production of Internet material for several

popular NBC television series, the National Labor Relations

Board has adopted a judge's recommended order and dismissed an unfair labor

practice complaint brought last year against the Writers Guild of America, West

(WGAW) by NBC/Universal Television.

In his ruling, NLRB Judge

Gregory Z. Meyerson stated: "In view of the paucity of evidence, I am reminded

of the words from an old television commercial, ‘Where's the beef?'" In its review

of the ruling this week, a three-member panel of the NLRB rejected the appeal

and affirmed Judge Meyerson's decision in its entirety.

"We are pleased by the

Board's decision, which reaffirms the Guild's right to represent its members in

the growing new media marketplace," commented WGAW Executive Director David Young on the 7/31 decision. "Whether

downloaded, streamed, or broadcast, it's all about quality content – and

writers deserve fair compensation for what they create. The guild stands ready

to negotiate a deal that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved."

Originally brought by

NBC/Universal Television, the labor complaint alleged that the WGAW unlawfully

pressured showrunners of NBC programs not to write "webisodes" – original

material intended for the Internet.

The dispute arose in 2006,

when NBC announced that it would produce webisodes based on most of its

primetime shows – asking WGA members to do work outside of the guild's

collective bargaining agreement. The WGAW responded by encouraging its members

not to write webisodes until an agreement could be reached concerning

employment terms. Showrunners supported the guild's efforts, and NBC/Universal

filed unfair labor practice charges against the WGAW, alleging the guild had

"illegally" instructed its members – including the showrunners of popular

series such as The Office and Heroes – to refuse to perform writing

services on webisodes. The WGAW maintained its members were eager to perform

this new work, and that the guild was merely insisting on negotiating fair

employment terms to ensure appropriate pay, benefits, and other protections.

The NLRB issued a formal complaint, which was tried before an administrative

law judge in December 2006

In his February 21 ruling,

Judge Meyerson affirmed that "unions have a First Amendment right to

communicate with their members," finding that the WGAW was "appealing to its

showrunner hyphenate members to put forth a united front, and to refrain from

performing any writing duties on the planned webisodes until such time as the

Union and the Employers entered into a new agreement." The judge also found "a

total absence of probative evidence that the Union

‘restrained or coerced' the showrunners from acting in their capacities as

representatives of the Employers for the purpose of collective bargaining" –

and recommended the complaint against the WGAW be dismissed in its entirety.


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