Dissident Strikers Take Straw Poll on NBC Contract Offer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Some strikers, weary of the 3 1/2 -month-old walkout against NBC, worked Monday to persuade the union to give in to the network.
″They have won,″ said producer Ginny Russo, voicing the despair of many striking workers who have been carrying picket signs since June 29. ″They have crushed our spirit and our will. We can’t afford to stay out there any more. People are getting despondent.
″This is Appomattox and they (NBC) are arranging the terms of surrender,″ Ms. Russo, an operations producers for two local news shows, said Monday.
Ms. Russo is among a number of union members who want to cut their losses and go back to work. But leaders of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians have so far refused to give members a chance to vote on NBC’s final offer, which has not changed substantially since the walkout began.
Many of the 2,800 camera operators, video and audio editors, graphic artists, producers, news writers and others who were galvanized behind their union when the network unilaterally imposed new contract terms, are wavering.
Some dissidents are conducting straw polls by telephone, hoping to persuade union leaders to give members a chance to ratify the pact. However, it could not be determined how many union members had responded to the straw polls.
But when the membership authorized its negotiating committee last spring to call a strike, it also gave them the sole authority to present a company offer to members for a vote. So far, the committee has refused to submit the company’s offer to a membership vote.
NBC has long said that NABET members should have been given a chance to vote. Now Ms. Russo and others agree, but for different reasons.
″In March, I would have voted no,″ Ms. Russo said. ″It would have been unanimous. Now after three months on the street, we’ll take anything, we just need to get paid again. We’ve lost a quarter of a year’s salary.″
And unless a majority approves the pact, NBC will not allow NABET members to cross picket lines and return to work, according to Day Krolik, NBC’s vice president for labor relations.
Arthur Kent, president of NABET Local 11 in New York, said the dissident activity ″borders on the verge of treachery. They are traitors″ who are only undermining the union and prolonging the strike, now in its 14th week.
″All it does is pull the rug out from under the negotiating committee,″ Kent said. ″I know they are angry and frustrated and bitter, but that should be taken to out on those who are hurting them.″
Other union leaders said they weren’t aware of dissent among their members.
Charles Mathis, strike coordinator for NABET Local 31 in Washington, D.C., said: ″I am not familiar with a grassroots effort in this local and if such a movement exists, they haven’t contacted me. And even if they did, it’s up to the national executive committee.″
Dainel Delaney, president of NABET Local 41 in Chicago, said he knows nothing of any fractures among his membership.
The network has contended that it needs more flexibility in using more non- union workers to cover sports and news events; the union said it could not compromise on an issue that would cost an estimated 150 union-covered jobs.
In another development, CBS’s contract with its technicians expires at midnight Wednesday and both sides are silent on the progress of negotiations taking place in Phoenix.
The expiring three-year contract covers 1,500 employees, including technicians, electricians, cameras operators, video and audio technicians and editors. Local and network television and radio jobs are involved.
Negotiations have been under way since Aug. 31, CBS spokeswoman Alice Henderson said.