Police Threaten NBC Strikers With Arrest
NEW YORK (AP) _ Picket lines have been orderly in the strike against NBC, although a union leader had heated words for police who halted a march around the network’s headquarters.
About 200 pickets had completed one circuit around the midtown Manhattan headquarters Thursday when police ordered them to stay behind barricades under the threat of arrest. The two-hour rally on the fourth day of the strike continued peacefully, and no one was arrested.
At one point, police precinct commander Edward Fitzgerald warned Arthur Kent, president of Local 11 of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, that the pickets were blocking traffic and forcing people into the street.
″If you don’t get them back in the pen, we start arresting. If we have to get vans here, we’ll get vans,″ Fitzgerald said.
Kent defended the demonstration as a legitimate exercise. ″We are circling the building and the inspector says it’s a safety hazard. It’s a peaceful march - no speeches, no nothing. We’re picketing.″
Kent charged that NBC was behind the police action, which NBC denied.
Meanwhile, Kent declined to be interviewed by a WNBC-TV reporter because the videotape crew was composed of non-union replacement workers.
The strike by 2,800 NABET members in six cities began Monday when NBC implemented a new contract. The new pact allows up to 6 percent of the work force to be free-lancers, which the union says would take away work that could be done by permanent employees.
The strike affects about a third of NBC’s work force, including camera and videotape operators, engineers and electronic maintenance workers, writers, editors and production assistants.
There have been no talks since the strike began and none are scheduled.
The walkout has prompted Phil Donahue to move his nationally syndicated talk show from NBC headquarters in New York to a rented studio in Stamford, Conn, starting Tuesday.
In Chicago, Mayor Harold Washington attended a noon rally Thursday in support of the strikers and said he would refrain from watching a local NBC- owned affiliate, WMAQ-TV, until the strike is over.
About 300 people were on hand for the rally, including two aldermen and representatives of the Chicago Teachers Union.
The union Thursday accused a station truck of striking down a picket Tuesday and leaving him unattended.
Nick Aronson, a WMAQ spokesman, said pickets were brushing along a slow- moving station vehicle and one man ″was in such as position that he rolled while the van turns. But he did not fall and he wasn’t left.″ The picket was not seriously injured.
″They’ve tried to bend some antennas, but in general it’s been very calm and professional on both sides,″ Aronson said. ″That was really the only incident of anyone getting testy.″
In Los Angeles, a federal judge ruled Thursday that U.S. Attorney Robert Bonner wrongly ejected a non-union NBC film crew from a news conference and ordered the prosecutor not to do it again.
″I think it is basically a bad precedent for the government to get involved in a labor dispute,″ U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian Jr. said. ″What happened was the government selectively took a position.″
Bonner ordered a non-union film crew out of a Wednesday news conference to announce a major drug bust after technicians for other news organizations refused to work alongside the strike-breakers.
It was the second time this week that non-union NBC crews have been confronted by public officials. On Monday, a non-union crew was asked to leave a news conference by District Attorney Ira Reiner after union crews from other stations threatened to walk out.
Reiner was dropped from NBC’s suit when a representative from his office met with network attorneys and agreed that NBC employees would not be excluded in the future.