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NBC, MSNBC employees plan walkout in protest of layoffs

It’s the latest major labor action to strike a national news organization in recent months as the media industry faces headwinds and cut-backs

NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. (Gary Hershorn/Corbis/Getty Images)
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More than 200 employees of NBC represented by the NewsGuild of New York plan to walk off the job for 24 hours on Thursday to signal frustration with the company’s decision to lay off seven union-covered journalists last month.

The NBC News Digital union has filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the cuts, which it described as abrupt and illegal, as well as a claim that some digital staffers for MSNBC were told by management that they were no longer part of the union.

A letter was delivered to NBC management stating the reasoning for the walkout on Wednesday morning. Soon after the action was announced internally, guild-covered NBC and MSNBC staffers began changing their statuses on an internal messaging system to “ready to walk out.”

Union members and supporters plan to protest in front of the company’s 30 Rock office building in Manhattan on Thursday morning.

“We are disappointed by the NewsGuild’s continued attempts to misrepresent the facts while we work in good faith with them to reach an agreement,” an NBC News spokesperson told The Washington Post on Wednesday morning.

The NBC Guild — comprising digital reporters, editors, designers, video journalists, animators and social media strategists — has been locked in contract negotiations with company management ever since its 2019 founding.

Tate James, a video editor for NBC News who serves as chair of the unit, said the decision to walk out was borne out of a growing belief that NBC management is excluding the union from key employee matters, such as the process of negotiating layoffs and the terms of severance agreements. NBC management did not follow the correct steps before last month’s layoffs, the union has charged.

“There was a general vibe of: If we’re not going to walk out over illegal layoffs, what are we doing here?” James said. “NBC is not offering us anything worthwhile in bargaining, after years of trying. We need to see some change from management, and this might be the thing that moves them.”

The union has filed six separate charges of unfair labor practice with the NLRB, but James said that process can take several years to resolve a complaint. “People are fed up with waiting two years for someone to tell us that something was illegal that we already knew was illegal,” he said.

Some 30 employees covered by an MSNBC-specific union were also laid off last month as part of the same round of company cost-cutting that affected the NBC Guild staffers.

New York Times staffers walk out en masse; first time in decades

The MSNBC Union, which is represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, said it was “stunned and outraged” by the layoffs, which mirrored cuts at other companies in the industry, including The Washington Post, Vox Media and CNN.

In December, for the first time in decades, a large group of New York Times employees participated in a work stoppage, with many protesting outside the newspaper’s headquarters, to signal frustration with company management over the handling of several employment issues.

While James said that consumers of NBC’s digital platforms might not notice the absence on Thursday, the company definitely will.

“Our ask is really simple: It’s follow the law and respect your employees,” he said. “A lot of people in our newsroom are asking: ‘How are we supposed to act like we are holding power to account if our employers are repeatedly violating federal labor law?’

This story has been updated to include a statement from NBC News.