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Unions push MSNBC hosts to take sides

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The AFL-CIO is calling upon liberal MSNBC hosts to meet with workers at the cable network who are trying to unionize.

In a letter sent to Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Rev. Al Sharpton, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell, the nation’s largest labor federation said the television personalities should speak out in support of workers at Peacock Productions, who produce programming for MSNBC.

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Workers at Peacock have complained about their access to health insurance, low pay, long hours and job insecurity, according to the AFL-CIO letter. Signing onto the letter were AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre.

“We are writing to draw your attention to serious issues facing many of the hard-working people at Peacock Productions, a subsidiary of NBC. We would like you to join us in meeting personally with these workers, who have the full support of the labor movement,” the labor leaders say in the letter to the MSNBC hosts.

Trumka and the other top leaders at the labor federation call upon the MSNBC hosts to speak out in support of the Peacock workers.

“We hope that you heed this call to help these brave men and women appeal to Peacock and to NBC to cease their anti-union tactics. Meet with them, talk to them, call your viewers to action, and let’s make a difference together,” said the letter.

Since July 2012, workers at Peacock have worked with the Writers Guild of America East, to form a union and bargain a new contract with the company. But NBC has contended that the producers at the company are supervisors and thus cannot form a union under the law.

"We believe that Peacock’s producers hold meaningful supervisory authority, which, according to Federal Labor Law, excludes them from voting," NBCUniversal said in a statement in August to the Los Angeles Times.

That has upset the labor movement.

“What has occurred at Peacock is unconscionable. We recognize that these networks and production companies make millions of dollars in profits and wield great power. But at the end of the day, these workers are working hard and deserve to be fairly rewarded for the work they do,” according to the AFL-CIO letter.

Representatives for MSNBC did not respond to requests for comment.

The union drive has become a headache for MSNBC. The liberal-leaning network covered the battle between unions and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) over collective bargaining. But the network hosts have been silent regarding the Peacock workers who are fighting their employer.

Hayes has secretly met with the workers, according to Salon. But Schultz, a prominent voice for labor unions, has pushed back against criticism that he has not supported the workers.