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
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
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
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
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.