INTERNATIONAL NEWS: WGA assists Nick's writers in unionizationcampaign

LOS ANGELES: The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAw) staged an

informational picket at Nickelodeon Animation Studios on August 30,

aimed at breaking the Viacom-owned company's staunch opposition to

unionization for writers of six animated shows.



More than 100 protesters gathered outside the studio's Burbank, CA

offices for the lunchtime event that drew support from the American

Federation of Television & Radio Artists, the Screen Actors Guild, the

Directors Guild of America, and the Teamsters.



WGAw assistant executive director Paul Nawrocki said that the guild

plans on other public events to highlight the increasingly acrimonious

fight with the children's programmer, including a possible writers'

walkout as a last resort. By signing union-representation authorization

cards, Nickelodeon writers are now eligible for the union's strike

fund.



About two dozen Nickelodeon employees - representing the majority of

writers for SpongeBob SquarePants, Constant Payne, Hey Arnold!, Fairly

Odd Parents, Invader Zim, and Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius - have signed

the authorization cards asking to be represented by the WGAw, but

Nickelodeon has refused to negotiate with the writers or the union thus

far.



The picket is the most public event of a months-long fight that has

involved weeks of leafleting and four unfair-labor-practices charges

filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Nickelodeon filed

the first of those charges last spring, asking the NLRB to investigate

the validity of the authorization cards. That charge was dropped in

June, but the WGAw has since filed three claims of its own, asserting

that the cable network has intimidated workers and blocked organizing

efforts.



Nickelodeon spokesperson Marianne Romano said that the studio isn't

commenting on the situation. A single statement was issued earlier in

the summer, claiming that the studio doesn't "think it's appropriate to

try this issue in the press or to comment publicly on our personnel

matters."



Tony Bisceglia, the NLRB's assistant to the regional director, said that

currently elections are being blocked by the remaining WGAw complaints,

which are "under investigation."



While elections could go forward with a request from the WGAw, he added

that it may be in the union's best interest to wait.



If unionized, writers could receive residual payments for their work,

WGAw pension, health benefits, and additional compensation if the TV

shows are developed into feature films. Because of the often-seasonal

nature of production work, Nawrocki pointed out that benefits are an

especially important issue.



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