While it’s not like there are no other networks airing the presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, a union dispute may cause some minor technical difficulties of ABC’s planned coverage of the debates.
A division of the red-shirted Communications Workers of America, known as NABET, has been without a contract since early 2011.
Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, NABET (which is short for the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians) may pull the trigger on the union’s “ultimate economic weapon” and call a strike during the presidential debates. Or, the network could (as it has in the past) lock camera technicians out of their jobs and use replacement techs to cover the debates.
The membership of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians has authorized its negotiation committee to call a strike, if necessary, among its members employed by ABC, which include camera operators. The Walt Disney Co.-owned network and the union have been in negotiations since the union’s labor contract ended in early 2011. The talks have been tense and have lately required the addition of a federal mediator. [snip] ABC said it has a plan in place if the union decides to walk out. “We’ve been monitoring the situation for some time,” said a spokesman for the network. “The most important thing is that presidential debates go off without a hitch.” The union says that ABC could also lock members out of the debate. “Labor peace is important to our membership as is finally resolving a collective bargaining agreement that has been open way too long,” said sector president James C. Joyce. The union wouldn’t discuss any details about a possible strike.
According to NABET’s website, negotiations with a mediator took place as recently as last week. However, the union reported that no agreement was reached and there is a blackout on information from the union.
The Union Bargaining Committee reminds all members to ignore rumors. All official negotiation and mobilization information will be delivered on the Sector website (www.nabetcwa.org), on Local websites, hotlines, and e-mail lists.
According to the National Labor Relations Board’s own publication, A Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act [in PDF]:
An employer who is engaged in good-faith bargaining with a union may lock out the represented employees, sometimes even before impasse is reached in the negotiations, if it does so to further its position in bargaining….On the other hand, lockouts are lawful that are intended to prevent any unusual losses or safety hazards that would be caused by an anticipated “quickie” strike. And a whipsaw strike against one employer engaged in multiemployer bargaining justifies a lockout by any of the other employers who are party to the bargaining [Emphasis added.]
In 1998, when NABET refused to accept ABC’s contract offer, the union struck for one day and the network responded by locking out the unionized camera operators, producers and editors. The lockout lasted 11 weeks.
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