Something wonderful happened yesterday: A walkout by employees at MTV Networks successfully forced the company to restore most of the benefits it had announced would be rolled back. United Hollywood, and I personally, congratulate those who organized (yeah, I said it) this inspiring effort.
MTVN, part of megacorp Viacom, had announced the benefit rollback in a cartoonishly heartless way, as the New York Press reported:
The offense that originally prompted action on [the employees'] part occurred December 4 when they were instructed to pick up their holiday party invitations. They were then instructed to fill out “additional paperwork,” that was due two days later on Thursday, December 6. This paperwork contained the news that they were no longer entitled to their 401(k) plans, dental insurance, paid vacation days (of which they had five, and now have 0), holidays, and that the 50-hour workweek would become the norm, after which hourly wage earners were eligible for overtime. Says one freelancer, “They’ve just informed us that if we entered the company less than one year ago and work for an hourly wage (as most people under management-level do), we will not get paid for one day off.”The affected employees were "permanent-freelancers" (CEOs sure hate the word "employees") at MTV and VH1. The workers walked out Monday through yesterday and chanted, "We want teeth," in reference to their slashed dental plan. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO.
The New York Times reports that so called "permalancers" are often subject to exploitation. If you have questions as to whether these mega-corporations should be calling you an "employee" instead of a "perma-not-really-works-for-me-helper", then visit this site, where you can download a "Determination of Worker Status" IRS form. Several employees have filed class action suits against their large corporate employers. These corporations are then forced to pay back taxes and penalties, and redefine their "independent contractors" as "employees" - providing them benefits, etc. (UH's Kate Purdy co-wrote this post.)