Postcards to 'Buster'


"The natives are getting restless."

That is how one union spokeswoman described the sight–I saw it, not she–of a host of blue and shocking-orange postcards taped to the window of a Volvo parked on the street outside ABC News headquarters in Washington the other night.

I don't know whether it was a management car being sent a message or a labor car sending one, but the message was clear: The natives are getting restless.

The blue postcard read: "The Disney Tradition of Union Busting Stops Here! We stand united with our union colleagues. We will not remain siltent. We pledge to support NABET. We demand a fair contract."

The orange one was straight to the sticking point of night-shift differential pay: "More than 50 years ago, Guild Members fought ABC for the right to be paid a night-shift differential if they worked between midnight and 7 a.m. They finally won this right in 1954. Now ABC wants to roll the clock back…"

Which means, the union says, the network wants to pay the 15% premium only for midnight to 6 rather than to 7. "A pay cut of more than $1,200 a year."

The postcards came from the Writers Guild of America East, which has been sending similar cards to members every Thursday over the past few months, though they have recently tended to talk about both WGA and NABET issues. The WGA has not had a contract with ABC for over two years, and has no talks scheduled since the network gave the union its final offer back in November.

Saying the equivalent of "this means war," NABET members walked out of their own contract negotiations before their contract even expired and new ones aren't scheduled until June. The postcards have begun applying to both unions, which both face the differential roll-back

I'm told Thursday is also t-shirt day, whem union members wear their NABET or WGA-logoed shirts instead of regular garb as a sign of solidarity.

WGA's primary beef with ABC is the network's desire to take some WABC New York producer-writers out of the union, which has been a nonstarter for WGA.

NABET's nonstarter are modifications to the seniority system.

ABC wants to make the system more flexible so that it can retain younger workers with more of the skills they need. The union sees it as a way to get rid of more senior, and thus higher-paid, union workers, sacrificing long-term experience for the sake of a buck.

Stay tuned.

By John Eggerton