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MOTION PICTURE STUDIO MECHANICS LOCAL 22 v. CBS

July 27, 1977

MOTION PICTURE STUDIO Mechanics Local 22 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
v.
COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIRICA

 In early 1976, each of the three major commercial television networks -- the American Broadcasting Company ("ABC"), the Columbia Broadcasting System ("CBS"), and the National Broadcasting Company ("NBC") -- decided to discontinue entirely the use of film cameras in its Washington, D.C. news operations and to replace them with newly developed miniature electronic television cameras ("minicams"). Each network also decided that members of local unions other than the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics, Local 22, of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees ("Local 22"), the plaintiff in this case, would provide the lighting for these new cameras. Members of these other unions -- the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians ("NABET") in the case of ABC and NBC, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("IBEW") in the case of CBS -- had previously provided the lighting for other kinds of electronic cameras. Members of Local 22 had done the lighting for film cameras. Out of the networks' decisions not to assign this lighting work to members of Local 22 has sprung this suit.

 Although Local 22 members also have done the camera and sound work for film cameras, the union is considered primarily one for lighting technicians. By successive contracts with each network for many years past, the union has been the "sole and exclusive bargaining representative" for all lighting technicians in the Washington, D.C. area that have been employed by each commercial network "on newsreel and/or documentary work, as previously understood and agreed by the parties . . .." This has meant that each network is under two separate obligations:

 (1) to allow only members of Local 22 to provide the lighting for the network's "newsfilm and/or documentary work, as previously understood and agreed by the parties . . .." and

 (2) to bargain with union members only through an authorized union representative.

 Local 22 claims that the networks have been violating the first of these obligations by assigning lighting work for minicams to members of NABET or IBEW. Although it seeks damages for past violations of this obligation, the union primarily desires an injunction to run the life of the present contracts with the networks to prevent them from assigning the work to members of unions other than Local 22. The plaintiff also claims that NBC violated the second of these obligations in the way that it announced its decision on lighting assignments to some of the union's members. For this violation it also seeks monetary and injunctive relief. Having heard and considered the evidence on both sides, the Court finds that no contract violation occurred.

 I.

 A.

 In order to address the first of plaintiff's claims, some background is necessary.

 Prior to 1971, the networks used only film cameras to cover routine news events in the Washington, D.C. area. A film crew consisted of three persons, a camera man, a sound man and a lighting man -- all members of Local 22. In November of 1971, however, CBS began using a minicam to cover routine stories in this area. That network experimented with the camera for about a year and a half before it and the other two networks began to use minicams regularly. By 1976, minicam crews had displaced a substantial number of film crews, and in that year, the networks each decided to make a complete change-over.

 The primary reason for this is not hard to find. The minicam has been a significant improvement over prior cameras. Previously in covering news events, the networks had to choose between two rather imperfect cameras. One was the standard electronic television camera. It produced a picture which could be shown "live" on the television screen or which could be recorded on video tape for later showing with only a minimum of delay. Unfortunately, this camera weighed over a hundred pounds and had to be mounted on a bulky and even heavier pedestal. It could not be effectively used, then, to cover routine news events outside the studio.

 The other choice was the film camera. The kinds used by the networks in their news operations were light and compact enough for nearly all purposes. They had a major drawback, however, in that they used film, which had to be sent to a laboratory for developing before the picture could be shown on the television screen. This meant substantial delays -- usually of an hour or more -- compared to electronic cameras.

 The minicam combined the best features of both of these cameras. Like a television camera, it produced a picture which could be shown live or recorded on video tape. And like the film camera, it could easily be used to cover routine news events virtually anywhere in the metropolitan area. In short, the minicam gave the networks much greater flexibility without any loss in quality.

 But using the minicam also gave the networks an additional benefit. Members of IBEW or NABET were assigned to minicam crews and they were willing to work in two-man teams, with one man doing the camera work ...


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