I Got a Steamroller, Baby


ABC and NABET-CWA have been negotiating a new contract all this week in Chicago, with some progress on side issues like breaks and length of workday, but still apparently a big stumbling block on jurisdiction and seniority issue. Talks are scheduled to continue until June 1, though the unions walked out of earlier talks March 22 sounding like they were on the brink of war.

NABET-CWA's negotiating committee has gotten strike authority, but that doesn't mean it will necessarily come to that.

There are a host of issues on the table, but one of the 800 pound gorillas is that ABC wants the flexibility to keep less senior people if they have the computer skills the company needs, while the union sees that as a camel's nose under the tent on a tentpole issue and an opportunity to cut higher-paid, more senior people.

There is something about union negotiations that makes me want to start humming Joe Hill. There is a reassuring sense of rightness in the muscular and contentious battle between labor and management.  

In the abstract of course–the idealized vision of a John Steinbeck, say, rather than from the trenches where there are casualties in terms of benefits and jobs. But nobody can claim all the white or black hats.

I was reminded of their ongoing struggle not only by the bulletins I have been getting daily from the unions, but also by an old Volvo.

On my way to work this morning as I walked by the ABC News bureau. A Volvo station wagon that is frequently parked in front of the building was plastered with leaflets from the Writers Guild of America, which is also in talks with ABC.

The four-color sheets taped to the windows announced the solidarity of the unions and caricatured the Disney mouse as a rat driving a steamroller over WGA with the slogan, or something close: "We are truly trying to move forward."

At least the steamroller was not rolling over the prostrate bodies of workers.

By John Eggerton