This Week in Labor: Onion News Network Writers Join WGAE

Lindsay Beyerstein

-The writers for the Onion News Network announced Tuesday that they had joined the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and negotiated a contract for the show’s second season, which will begin airing on the Independent Film Channel on September 30. The new contract includes increased minimum compensation, health and pension contributions, and additional writing weeks in the production schedule. The contract is a milestone in the TV comedy industry. Until this week, The Onion News Network was the last scripted, live action comedy show on television to employ non-union writers. The contract only covers the TV branch of The Onion’s comic empire.

-New York City’s second-largest construction union, District Council of Carpenters, voted unanimously to authorize a strike if they don’t get a contract by August 15. The building contractors want to abolish the union’s hiring hall system, and the rank and file is staunchly opposed. Currently, half of the new hires come from the union’s unemployed list. If the contractors get their way, they’ll be able to hire any union member they want. This would represent a major power shift from the union as a source of jobs to the contractors. Furthermore, this decentralization could drive down carpenters’ wages. If this goes through, the official posted union scale will have no relationship to what’s actually being paid in the field,” Local 157 member Gregory Butler told Crain’s New York Busi​ness​.com, I guarantee it’s going to lead to let’s make a deal’— people doing what they have to do to get a job.”

-Railway unions in the Asia Pacific region are up in arms over a recent court decision in Thailand that could see seven Thai union leaders fired and sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The officials are being punished for their role in a 2009 industrial action to publicize lax safety standards on the railroad which led to two derailments and one fatal accident in the space of just four days, according to the International Transport Workers Federation, which is calling for international solidarity with the embattled union officials.

-Saab pays up. More that 1600 white collar workers at the troubled Swedish car manufacturer have received their back pay, a union official announced Friday. Last week, the company warned that some of its 3700 workers might not get paid on time because sufficient funds from investors had failed to materialize.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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