ESPN/ABC Cameraman Challenges Pervasive Entertainment Industry Practice of Forcing Union Membership on Part-Time and Freelance C
**Fort Worth, TX (January 17, 2007)** – A television cameraman employed as a “daily hire” for the Walt Disney Company (ABC) through its subsidiary ESPN Television filed federal charges against the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) Local 41 union challenging a pervasive practice in the entertainment industry of forcing union membership on part-time and freelance independent contractors. The cameraman also filed charges against the Chicago-based union for threatening to have him fired for refusing to pay thousands of dollars in compulsory union dues.
Donald J. Geist filed the charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after receiving multiple letters from NABET officials demanding that he join the union, pay a $1500 “initiation fee,” and then pay monthly forced dues in the amount of $125. When Geist refused to pay, union officials sent a letter to Geist’s sometimes employer ABC, threatening that their business relationship would end and that he would be blacklisted from future work.
The NLRB charges, filed by Geist with the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, show multiple violations of federal labor law by NABET officials. As a daily hire Geist should not be subject to compulsory union membership because he is never employed for thirty consecutive days, as defined by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Because he has never been employed continuously by ABC for 30 days, Geist cannot be subjected to compulsory union dues. Yet the contract that NABET union officials reached with ABC is illegal on its face because it requires employees to pay forced dues after only 20 non-continuous days of employment in any year or 30 days within two years.
Despite being facially invalid, requirements of this nature are commonplace in the entertainment industry. Often union officials use threats of blacklisting such workers from future work to press them into paying union dues in violation of federal law.
“The disgraceful behavior by NABET union officials shows just how far they will go to force people to pay up or lose their jobs – even if that means completely disregarding the rights of the individual workers they claim to represent,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, this case is not an anomaly. All around the country employees in the entertainment industry are having unionization forced on them whether they like it or not.”
Even if Geist could have been subjected to the contract in the first place, his NLRB charge also lays out that union officials didn’t follow requirements handed down by the US Supreme Court in the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck case designed to ensure that employees’ right to object to paying forced union dues used for union political expenditures, lobbying, and organizing is protected.