WARREN, Mich – An early Christmas party at a local furniture store became the rally site for workers of Fox 2 television. Media outlets were invited to the gala event and broadcast workers took the opportunity to bring attention to the news organization’s refusal to bargain in good faith.
“It is not looking like a very good Christmas for us so we hope we can put a damper on theirs,” said Brian Moore, President of Local 43, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians – Communication Workers of America (NABET-CWA) as he walked last week along the busy road in front of the store. He carried a sign saying “Turn off Fox 2, unfair to working families.” The honking of car horns seemed to show the message was getting through.
Local 43 represents many of the technical workers at Detroit’s Fox 2. Contract negotiations began in May but the October negotiations ended with the union walking out.
Master control operator David Minter said workers took a four percent wage cut in 2009 and have gone four years without a raise. He and others are angry that Fox is now asking for even more cuts.
Possibly taking a cue from Walmart and other anti-labor businesses, Fox wants to eliminate the breaks people take during their working day. Moore said his members regularly work seven and a half to eight hours straight in a crowded six by eight foot room.
Another key issue is jurisdictional rights. Fox wants to allow anybody working in the building to shoot and transmit video. For the “YouTube” generation, quality means nothing; they need to get “on the air fast.”
Penny wise and pound foolish might describe another Fox demand. Photographers and other NABET members often work outside in what can be very nasty weather. Incredulously, Fox no longer wants to provide foul weather gear. When workers asked why, Fox replied that it costs them “$7,000 every three years.” “This is from a company that makes $1.8 billion,” Moore observed.
The blame for the aggressive approach is not the Local Fox management. “We had an agreement in two hours but as soon as they sent it to Fox headquarters in New York, the reply came back ‘no way.'”
What is happening at Fox 2 Detroit is taking place at Fox outlets all over the country. There are now 30 open contracts with NABET and other unions said Moore. “We can’t close contracts because they don’t want to.”
Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Chris Michalakis said news quality will suffer when work is “shopped out” to interns who don’t do this for a living nor have the needed experience.
He was incredulous that Fox is fighting over a $7,000 tab for cold weather gear. “That’s Roger Ailes’ (president of Fox News) lunch money.”
Photo: John Rummel/PW