At 3 P.M. Today, What Will Sumner Do?

Sumner Redstone
Viacom head honcho Sumner Redstone. Photo: Getty Images

According to a press release sent to us from embittered Viacom freelancers, 3 p.m. is the hour that they will storm out of the offices today to protest large changes in the company's benefit program. Though Sumner's army of evil attempted to make some concessions last week, it seems like it's still on. From the release:

The holiday season has arrived and you work for one of the largest
media corporations in the world. You receive your invitation to the company’s annual
holiday gala event, and along with it, you are given the alarming news that in a few
weeks, large portions of your employee benefits – including health insurance and
retirement benefits – will be slashed or cut.

It sounds like a tale only Scrooge could spin, but this was the case for thousands
who work each day for Viacom but are classified as ‘freelancers’, some of whom
have been working for the company as long as 9 years.

Wow, Scrooge? Someone get these creative people a raise! Any readers planning on walking out, too? Send us what's going on in the interior; we're dying to know. E-mail us at intel@nymag.com. After the jump, the full press release.

VIACOM DELIVERS HOLIDAY SUCKER PUNCH TO EMPLOYEES:
Freelancers to Walkout After Company Drastically Slashes Benefits

* * * * * * * FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE * * * * * * *

Dec 6th 2007 – The holiday season has arrived and you work for one of the largest
media corporations in the world. You receive your invitation to the company’s annual
holiday gala event, and along with it, you are given the alarming news that in a few
weeks, large portions of your employee benefits – including health insurance and
retirement benefits – will be slashed or cut.

It sounds like a tale only Scrooge could spin, but this was the case for thousands
who work each day for Viacom but are classified as ‘freelancers’, some of whom
have been working for the company as long as 9 years.

On Monday, Dec. 10th at 3pm, MTVN freelancers will stage a walkout in response to
Viacom's recent announcement of drastic cuts in health and retirement benefits for
the network's contract workers.

Viacom, the parent company of the popular MTV, VH1, and Nickelodeon cable
channels, is recognized in the industry for its “family’friendly” programming. But this
year’s benefits slashings – which end 401K packages and dental for new
employees, and cut commuter pre-tax deductions and tuition reimbursement for all
freelancers-- were anything but family friendly.

One Freelance Production Designer, 37, who has worked for Nickelodeon for three
years, covers her 3 year old child, 8 month old baby, and spouse under her benefits.
The designer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “It’s hard enough to
support your family and feel that your job is unstable, even before this.”

Some estimate as many as 50% of Viacom’s production workers are freelancers.1, 2
Several hundred other recently-contracted freelancers face even further reduced
benefits: with holiday pay rates taken away, and with the copay for health insurance
increased. Workers are preparing t-shirts with the slogan “Viacom Freelancers Get
Cancer Too” for Monday’s walkout.

These developments come in the midst of several other recent labor disputes in the
entertainment industry, including the Broadway stagehand and Hollywood writers’
strikes. The Viacom freelancers will stage their walk-out Monday, December 7th,
2007 at 3pm from the 1515 Broadway building in Times Square.

Earlier: Inside the Viacom Holiday Party: 'Fuck It, Let's Get Wasted'