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WGA Writers Rally Against Nickelodeon - Picket Scheduled

The Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw), representing theatrical and television writers, has filed its third unfair labor practice charge in two months against Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Inc. (a Viacom subsidiary) for allegedly retaliating against employees of animated series who are seeking union representation and coverage by the guild's contract (MBA). The latest charge asserts that Nickelodeon illegally reduced the benefits of writers on the television show JIMMY NEUTRON, BOY GENIUS in retaliation for their activities in seeking WGAw representation. The guild will hold an informational picket at Nickelodeon Animation Studios headquarters in support of the writers on Thursday, August 30, 2001, from 12:00 Noon - 1:00 P.M. at 231 West Olive Avenue, in Burbank, California. The unfair labor practice charges followed a Writers Guild petition for certification of representation with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board after Nickelodeon Animation Studios ignored a demand for recognition by the writers of six Nickelodeon animated programs (INVADER ZIM, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, CONSTANT PAYNE, HEY ARNOLD!, FAIRLY ODD PARENTS and JIMMY NEUTRON, BOY GENIUS). An overwhelming majority of the writers on the six shows have signed authorization cards designating the Writers Guild as their collective bargaining representative. The WGAw filed the first charge on June 29, 2001, after the company ordered its employees to provide statements to agents of the NLRB in support of the company's legal position. The employees were not informed that such statements are voluntary under the law and that no reprisal would occur if they declined to participate. The local office of the NLRB sent the first charge to NLRB headquarters in Washington, D.C., for further investigation and review. The WGAw filed its second charge with the NLRB on August 9, 2001, after the company issued a rule restricting the employees from posting union material on company bulletin boards and removed the boards. Employees have a right to engage in such activity under federal labor law. The day after the guild filed this, the company rescinded the rule and restored the bulletin boards. The second charge remains under investigation by NLRB Region 31. In a separate filing with the NLRB, Nickelodeon is challenging the validity of the representation cards. This dispute could end with the writers walking out. The writers are seeking residual payments, WGA pension and health contributions and compensation if a show becomes the basis of a feature film. "This action by Nickelodeon is the latest round in the company's escalating efforts to deny the benefits of the guild's contract to these writers," said Paul Nawrocki, Assistant Executive Director of the WGAw. "These writers are seeking the basic rights that artists in this industry gained 60 years ago. Viacom owns a number of other companies that are signed to the guild's MBA, and, if necessary, we will carry this struggle into those unionized sectors of the company."