NEW YORK -- CBS news writers, graphic artists and other staffers who work for the network's television and radio news operations voted by a wide margin to authorize a strike against their employer, the Writers Guild of America announced Monday.
Of the 300 employees who cast ballots in last week's special election, 81% backed a labor stoppage to protest working for more than 2 1/2 years without a contract.
The strike authorization means the WGA East and WGA West could call for a walkout at any time, although a strike is not inevitable. Union officials hope that the vote -- coming in the midst of a strike involving television and film writers who work under a separate contract -- will prod CBS back to the negotiating table. The two sides last met in January.
"It's a very powerful vote," said Michael Winship, president of WGA East. "It proves that the CBS News folks have reached a point where they have taken this situation in their own hands and recognized that they need to get a contract, whatever needs to be done."
The union's CBS negotiating committee will meet after Thanksgiving to determine the next course of action, Winship said.
"We would hope that the message this vote sends will get management to realize they should come to the table and bargain," he added.
In a statement, CBS showed no inclination to compromise.
If a labor stoppage were to occur, all-news radio stations like Los Angeles' KNX-AM (1070) and KFWB-AM (980), Chicago's WBBM-AM and New York's 1010 WINS and WCBS-AM would likely be the hardest hit, as they would lose the staff that pens their news and headlines.
"CBS Evening News With Katie Couric," which has three news writers and several graphic artists who work under the WGA contract, would also be affected. Couric does not belong to WGA, but she is a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Can you imagine that? Couric's show will affected!