In a football game with nationwide significance for the BCE playoff picture, No. 5 Stanford beat No. 3 Oregon 26-20 last night in a crucial showdown between two of the country’s top-ranked college teams. It drew a huge audience for ESPN, which broadcast the game in prime time.
While Stanford students and alumni roared in the stands, there wasn’t as much to cheer about for many in the large crew of production professionals manning the cameras, mics and consoles. They had recently had their salaries reduced and their pension and health care coverage eliminated by the Pacific Athletic Conference (PAC-12) Network, according to a letter from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff – who represents the 28th District in the San Fernando Valley, where many Hollywood crew members live – to Stanford University president John Hennessy. Hennessy is also on the board of the PAC-12 Network.
The letter was also distributed by IATSE, which has been in a protracted labor standoff with the PAC-12 Network. Last December the IA launched a two-week strike against Pac-12 Networks and held protests at several PAC-12 sports events but withdrew pickets and resumed talks. These have so far gone nowhere.
The PAC-12 Network represents a dozen leading Western colleges (including UCLA and USC) and has negotiated a multi-year pact for broadcast and cable package licensing football and sports rights estimated to be worth $3 billion. The network was launched last year.
Well-off as it is, the PAC-12 Network “has cut wages and eliminated health and retirement benefits earned by camera and sound operators and other highly skilled technicians who have been providing services to conference schools for decades,” Schiff wrote. “I am extremely concerned to learn the PAC-12 Network is forcing these hard-working California citizens to take a pay cut and forgo their health pension benefits,” with some experiencing “financial hardship” as a result.
The PAC-12 Network “should pay technicians the area standards that have been negotiated and developed for this industry and that are being paid by other broadcasting companies,” Schiff added.
“We take great pride in offering compensation above the industry average in the vast majority of positions as well as superior working conditions for everyone associated with the Pac-12 Networks,” the organization responded in a statement, cautioning that it remained “steadfast in our commitment to the flexible model that has proven successful in our first year of operation.” It did not directly address the question of wage cuts and the elimination of health and pension benefits.
Schiff in his letter asked the Stanford University president to discuss the matter with his fellow PAC-12 Network’s board members “and urge them to resolve the situation by reinstating area standard wages and benefits.” The Congressman said Hennessey was “well-positioned to bring about a change in this policy and I want to join many of my colleagues in urging you and other board members to do so.”
Schiff has been a California member of the House of Representatives for a dozen years and is currently on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence serving as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, which is busy these days looking into the voluminous and controversial data-gathering operations of the National Security Agency. He is also on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.