NBC 10 strike

Homeland Security, ‘Today’ show visits, ‘very serious’ accusations: The wild theater of the NBC10 strike

A strike of NBC10 workers — photographers and technicians to be precise — has been going on for two weeks, and as you’d imagine, there are a lot of visuals. Hell, it’s television. Strikers have been captured on NBC10 telecasts, picketing in the background. Throughout the week, they’ve been driving up to New York City and holding up signs behind Al Roker and the rest of the crew on the “Today” show. And sometime today they’ll almost certainly be on competing TV stations 6ABC and Fox 29, who captured them in a press conference held this morning outside of the City Hall chambers.

About a dozen picketers, on strike because of a contract dispute, stood behind IBEW Local 98 spokesman Frank Keel and assistant business manager Jim Foy explained “very serious accusations” against NBC10 news director Anzio Williams. They take them so seriously that the union has notified the Secret Service, the FCC and Homeland Security.

Keel said NBC10, reeling because of the strike, flew in a photographer named John Thompson from Dallas to cover the first day of the pope visit. To get into the event, Keel said, Thompson tried using the media credential of news director Williams. Keel held up their pictures. They looked an awful lot alike. If Williams had a salt-and-pepper beard he’d look just like Thompson. But it apparently didn’t fool security. Keel said eyewitnesses told the Local Thompson was caught but was then allowed to get a credential of his own on site.

“NBC10 in its arrogance and its defiance — maybe this stems from its parent company Comcast — thought they could simply scam the system and get away with it,” Keel said. “We’re not going to let that happen.”

Foy said, “I can’t understand how the security of the pope and the papal visit was taken so lightly by anybody in the news world. It must be criminal.”

A couple minutes later, a reporter holding a camera followed up with a question about the possible credential switch (which hey! it almost sounded like it was planted): “At any time, could the Pope have been, his security or safety, could that have been (compromised)?”

But strikes, especially those from Johnny Doc’s Local 98, always feel a little over the top. That’s how demands get heard. The strikers clearly understand this. They’ve been driving up to New York City about every day this week to hold signs on “Today.”

Julia Ellis, a technician with NBC10, went there on Sunday morning and held a Local 98 sign.

“We were there to make our presence felt,” said Ellis.

Rob Kilroy traveled to New York for Wednesday’s “Today” show. He said some people “in the biz” helped them get to the right positions where they would certainly be on camera during the show.

In some of the areas where people gather for the “Today” show, Kilroy said, people have to be moving because it’s a sidewalk. So when told to get moving Kilroy started kicking his legs in place like he was dancing.   

“They wanted to kill me,” he said.  

In a statement, NBC10 spokesperson Shawn Feddeman said, “NBC10 is committed to continue to negotiate in good faith with the IBEW to achieve a mutual resolution of our outstanding issues. We will work tirelessly so that there will be no impact on our viewers, who will continue to have access to all of our local news and information without interruption.”

There certainly has been some impact, though. The Inquirer reported a Pope Francis special didn’t air two weeks ago. And according to Vincent Hughes’ press secretary Ben Waxman, the state senator canceled an appearance on an NBC10 show because he wanted to show support for “the labor movement and union families.”

And don’t expect the strikers to stop getting on TV. Ken Agatone, a technician for NBC10, said they have been able to chase down local telecasts because the people on strike are experienced photographers and technicians who know where the stories are going to be and in some cases may have even pitched them. Sometimes they follow the NBC10 news vehicles.

“We do what need to do,” Agatone said, “to make sure the message gets out.”

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