Los Angeles, California - June 7, 2010 - As proposed, the Comcast-NBCU merger would lead to job cuts, aggravate the already anti-competitive behavior of the cable industry and restrict consumer access to the online video content of their choice, a senior official with the Communications Workers of America testified today.
In remarks before a field hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, CWA District 9 Vice President James Weitkamp stressed that the public must be protected from the significant harms created by a merger of such unprecedented scale.
"The Comcast/NBCU merger is not in the public interest. Federal regulators cannot endorse this merger without carefully considering the significant impact the merging companies will have on video competition, choice and jobs," Weitkamp said.
CWA represents 700,000 employees nationwide, including workers at both Comcast and NBC-Universal. Weitkamp's comments echoed those made earlier this year by CWA President Larry Cohen in testimony before the full Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill.
Weitkamp also noted that in a video marketplace already lacking for competition and with cable rates already having grown three times the rate of inflation, Comcast-NBCU could bundle unpopular cable channels with popular ones, forcing customers to pay for channels they do not want.
"The Internet allows consumers access to the video content of their choice, unmediated by the pre-packaged bundles of the cable company. A combined Comcast-NBCU could limit consumers’ online access to NBC content, or it could charge consumers higher prices to access that content unless they are cable subscribers. This is the 'TV Everywhere' model that Comcast and NBC have already begun to deploy, which forces Internet customers to buy cable packages in order to see content online," Weitkamp said.
Further, a Comcast-NBCU combination will result in the loss of good jobs and depress labor standards for those who still have jobs after a merger, Weitkamp said. The merged company would add an additional $8 billion to the current debt load, giving the new company the choice of cutting jobs and/or raising cable prices.
"Either way, consumers and workers lose," Weitkamp said.
CWA also is concerned that the merged Comcast-NBCU would reinforce Comcast's long record of attempting to block workers from having the union they want, including many campaigns to force union decertification, even where workers voted multiple times for union representation. After Comcast acquired AT&T Broadband in 2002, the company refused to reach an agreement on a first contract with 16 of the organized bargaining units it bought from AT&T, including four in California: Fresno, Modesto, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
"Comcast wages and benefits trail those at unionized telecom companies by about one-third. This has a considerable impact on minority workers, who comprise about one-third of the workforce in this sector," Weitkamp said.