WBEZ reporters, producers, hosts vote to form union
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter December 19, 2013 11:18AM
Workers at Chicago Public Media — most of whom work at the public radio station WBEZ-FM (91.5) — voted overwelmingly to form a union Wednesday night. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: December 19, 2013 11:18AM
Workers at Chicago Public Media — most of whom work at the public radio station WBEZ-FM (91.5) — voted overwelmingly to form a union Wednesday night.
The union will be comprised of 49 workers who produce, report, host and present content for WBEZ, sister station Vocalo, and related websites.
There were 40 votes in favor, and 7 against, said Rob Wildeboer, WBEZ criminal and legal affairs reporter. The vote was held at Navy Pier, where Chicago Public Media offices are located.
The group will be represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG AFTRA).
Employees are “looking forward to negotiating a first contract,” according to a release issued by SAG AFTRA, which also represents workers at National Public Radio.
There was a meeting this week where management here asked the employees to vote ‘no’ on this,” said Wildeboer. “They had concerns that a union would create an environment where things aren’t as flexible.”
A representative of Chicago Public Media did not return phone calls.
The union structure will “clarify the lines of communication” between employees and management, in which there are always gaps, Wildeboer said.
“I don’t think it’s right to view this as ‘people there are unhappy, so they’re forming a union,’” said Wildeboer.
“Were constantly charting out a new path, programming changes and new initiatives. This will help give us a voice at the table to work with management to dive into new projects,” he said.
Chicago Public Media is currently under the leadership of interim CEO Alison Scholly. The organization has been has been in transition since Torey Malatia resigned the position in July.
“We view this as the next step in strengthening Chicago Public Media as an institution in Chicago and continuing to pursue the goals that management and employees have, which is pursing good journalism to benefit and serve the public,” said Wildeboer.
When asked if money was at the heart of the move to form a union, Wildeboer said: “I don’t think that really was an issue for very many people. . . . It’s not just a job, the people who work here really care about this mission.”
A letter from broadcasters at National Public Radio encouraged formation of a union to create “a stronger voice to negotiate improvements in pay, benefits and working conditions. . . . As new innovations and technology transform the landscape, it is important that those of us on the front lines ensure the highest standards of professionalism and quality programming.”