Friday, December 14, 2007


Here you can read about Executive Order #17, which New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer issued back in early September and many in the media and in the blog netherworld have been speculating may have brought about the recently proposed changes in freelance benefits and payroll at Viacom.

But then again, maybe not.

Although we are hardly scholars of executive orders, it seems as if this was directed primarily toward people designating employees as 'independent contractors', those who use a 1099 tax form and are responsible for paying all their own payroll taxes, while the employer pays none. In addition it was aimed at those being paid 'off the books'- none of which applies here (as far as we can tell).

Even if that is the case and this didn't really effect Viacom and its current classification system, it is possible that some companies got jitters upon hearing that this executive order was being issued and decided to go a little more legit in terms of the classification of their employees- hence the new payroll system.

There is no question that as 'freelance employees' as many of us were thus designated, we were getting a really comprehensive benefit package. But perhaps in the haste to 'go legit', they jumped the gun, not realizing just how many long-time everyday employees were getting caught up in the net- employees who had a legitimate claim that they were anything but freelance- but rather belonged to the more undefined class of 'permalancers'.

This whole thing has the uneasy feeling of last year, when the layoff rumors were leaked by some irresponsible person to the blogs and everyone sat around waiting for the ax to fall. We've got our benefits back (for now), but everyone has been wondering 'what's next?'.

If anyone has any idea how any of this freelancer/ employee designation works or how it pertains to EO17, it would be greatly appreciated since we are again clueless over all of this.

We're just throwing some questions out there and looking for someone else to provide some better answers.

You can read Executive Order #17 here.


UPDATE: We're still learning who does what and where within MTVN/ Viacom. Until 2 weeks ago, we never put much thought to it at all. We just did our job and took our benefits for granted. Oh, how we yearn to return to that innocent time.

Hey, does anyone know how things work outside MTV Networks at VIACOM? For example, do free lancers/ permalancers at BET and CBS get benefits?

P.S. - What we STILL want to know is who told HR to shut off all their phones and put their 'out of office' replies on earlier this week? All the while, panicked freelancers were trying to get a hold of HR reps to get answers to simple, but important questions, like 'Where can we get our forms signed to sign up for the Freelancers Union?' and 'Are we really getting only $2,000 per year in hospital coverage?!?!'.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Score one for the little guy!

Basically we got a one month reprieve. What happens in February is anybody's guess.

Are we the only ones who find it really hard to believe that management was caught off guard at how many 'freelancers' come to this job day in and day out FOR YEARS and haven't been made staff??

If your departments look anything like ours, they're a handful of staff employees surrounded by an army of freelancers - probably at a 2-1 or 3-1 ratio. There are people who have been there 4, 5, 6 OR MORE years and haven't been converted to staff.

Medical and dental aside, we are still being stripped of some of the most basic 'benefits' people get when they work the same job every day for years on end.

-What about our 5 paid days off? Everyone we know gets 2 weeks MINIMUM - now they want to take away the little time off we have???!?!?

-HOLIDAYS!??!! We don't even have the OPTION of working most holidays, so unless you are weekly, you are LOSING money on the holidays.

-InTuition! Sweet, sweet InTuition, which helps us to sharpen to gather new skills for the jobs we perform? Surely Viacom can see this as an investment, not a 'cost' that needs to be cut?!?!?

-401k contributions. I know so-called 'freelancers' who have been here more than 5 years and are already vested!!! Doesn't that length of service (esp in the limbo of 'permalance' mean anything to this company?

What do you think? Do we fight on until we get some answers?

Jim Watkins Gots Our Back

For those of you who haven't seen Monday's CW11 piece:

(btw, where'd they get that logo, 1984?)


Our little 'informational session' with HR today (Thursday) is scheduled for the same time as the WGA strike people were planning to join.

Coincidence? We thinks not.

Either way - attend one or the other. Or Both!

ALSO- Apparently MTV Networks is trying to have it BOTH ways (from Variety):

"One MTV Nets insider said the strategy that drove the freelance rollbacks would remain in place. In a bid to prove to Wall Street that the company is managing costs, the person said, its scrutiny of freelancers will likely continue."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We Win!!! (sorta)

If your department is anything like mine, more than 50% of the people you know have gotten almost nothing done this week, scrambling to find out about the Freelancers Union, pricing benefit plans, scheduling last minute InTuition classes, and going on a veritable bender of doctor and dentist visits.

Well, it looks like (for now) we've got our REAL medical and dental back at the same price (Or, as the email said, '
The Aetna plan has certain advantages that may make it the preferred option for many of our freelance and temporary employees' HAHHAHAHAHA!).

Still, there are a few remaining questions, among them:
-what about our 401k?
-and our 5 paid days off?
-will InTuition ever come back?
-what about our brethren who started sometime in '07 and haven't qualified yet?
-will we lose more in February, when the payroll changes take effect?
-why the eff did they do this in the first place?
-and most importantly, WILL WE FINALLY BE STAFF?

More to come, as we get it.

NY1 Coverage


Um, Thanks?

First it was Moby (kind of) and now Perez Hilton is on our side. Hmm... has anyone seen that Michael Moore guy?

Engaged and Underpaid

I have been working at MTV for 4+ years now, part of the reason I took this job was because after one year of service (even as a freelancer) I would have comprehensive health care, dental and a 401k.

Not a bad deal at all.

As it turned out, I got a really steady gig and have been in the same department, at the same desk for pretty much that entire time, working on whatever they throw at me. I can’t take other jobs because of my full time employment here – buy still, my ID says ‘freelance’.

My girlfriend and I recently got engaged and set a date for the fall '08 for our wedding, but are now in the process of trying to get me on her health care through her company, which will cost us an additional $220 a month (because we are not married, these are domestic partner benefits, they are more expensive). And that’s just for medical – no dental. That $220 is a huge chunk of what we had been saving for our wedding.

Well, so much for getting married in ’08. THANKS VIACOM!


Tell Your Story.

We have created this space with the intention of letting Viacom 'freelancers' tell their stories. Got kids who now have crappy coverage thanks to Viacom? Tell us about it. Post a photo. Got a condition that requires constant care or a prescription? Write about it. Post a photo. Got a nightmare story about dealing with HR? We want to hear. Got some good (public) info on the financials of the company (executive compensation, earnings, etc.) BY ALL MEANS, share it! News stories on Viacom's scam or the walkouts? Link it.

We want to hear EVERYONES story.

All emails will be posted by the moderators (who are in the same boat as you) - so send us your story, let Viacom see the faces of this company, hear the stories of the very people they are denying the compensation they signed up for.