Monday, March 22, 2010

Unfair Labor Practice Charges and Demonstrations Launched by Workers at WGME-TV

IBEW Local Union 1837 has filed two unfair labor practice charges against WGME-TV and Sinclair Broadcast Group in recent weeks.

Now, union members there are have begun a series of public demonstrations against the Portland television station for what we see as the company’s illegal actions and their attempts at union busting.

On Wednesday, March 17, from 7:30 – 8:45 a.m. and from 12:45 – 2:00 p.m., workers at WGME-TV and their allies demonstrated in front of Northport Business Park on Washington Avenue in Portland, where the studios and offices of WGME-TV are located.

Most workers at WGME-TV, channel 13 in Portland had their pay cut as much as 10% as Sinclair Broadcast Group began implementing part of their last contract offer without the agreement of the workers and their Union.

As the union’s Negotiating Team brought new proposals to the bargaining table in hope of reaching a contract agreement with the Company, WGME 13 and Sinclair pulled the plug on the talks by declaring the sides were deadlocked – even as they thanked the workers’ union for all the movement they were making.

Throughout negotiations, Sinclair has insisted on “complete flexibility” in assigning bargaining unit work to non-bargaining unit employees, supervisors and managers, as well as future “discretion” in granting raises and changes in employee benefits. It is clear that Sinclair’s intention is to destroy the coherence and viability of the bargaining unit.

Although IBEW had reluctantly proposed a wage freeze for at least a year, the Company has insisted on pay cuts for most of the union workers at WGME 13.

At the bargaining table, Sinclair and WGME 13 admitted that these cuts were not because of any financial crisis, but simply because they felt that their workers were overpaid.

To some, it appeared that the Company was taking advantage of the current economic downturn to force unnecessary concessions on their workers.

“Once again, corporate greed has reared its ugly head,” said Matt Beck, who worked as a Producer-Director at WGME 13 for close to twenty years before joining the IBEW staff. “You’ve got a huge, profitable broadcasting corporation from out-of-state, trying to boost their earnings by taking money out of the pockets of their workforce. I don’t think that WGME’s viewers – or their advertisers – will stand for that kind of behavior.”

Other changes implemented by the Company include restricting when employees can take vacations and taking away other benefits that had been previously negotiated.

IBEW Local 1837 has determined that the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. and WGME-TV failed to live up to their obligations to bargain in good faith under the National Labor Relations Act.

When they implemented parts of their “last and final offer” (including wage cuts) before reaching an impasse in contract negotiations with IBEW, and later also took steps to make the collection of union dues more difficult, they violated the rights of IBEW members at WGME-TV.

Charges were filed on Friday, February 19 and Thursday, March 4 at the Office of the National Labor Relations Board Regional Director in Boston. The actions of the Company are unfair to our members at WGME-TV, and we believe they are illegal and constitute attempts to bust the union.

“We’re disappointed by Sinclair’s decision to do this to their workers at WGME 13,” said IBEW 1837 Business Manager Cynthia Phinney. “These folks give their all in what are often stressful jobs. By bringing news and public affairs to the local community, they provide an important public service. They deserve to be treated better than this.”

IBEW 1837 is proud to represent most of the people who work behind the scenes at WGME 13. These broadcast professionals include the Operating Technicians, News Editors, Assignment Editors, Photographers, Engineers, Producers and Directors who create and produce a variety of news and public service programs, commercials and station promotional announcements. Our members have been recognized for their outstanding achievements in television by a diverse group of local, state, and national organizations of journalists and broadcasters.

WGME 13 is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., of Baltimore, a publicly traded company. The predominantly non-union Sinclair owns, operates or provides services to 58 television stations in 35 broadcasting markets. Sinclair purchased WGME-TV from the locally-owned Guy Gannett Communications in 1998. In a recent SEC filing, the company notes that approximately 100 out of 2,400 employees are represented by a union.

How You can help Us!

If you would like to support us, please contact the management of WGME 13 and station owners Sinclair Broadcast Group. Tell them that it's time to give IBEW workers at WGME a fair contract offer now!

Phone: Call WGME at 800-766-9330 or Sinclair Broadcast Group at 410-568-1500.

Sinclair Broadcast Group email:

Tell them that IBEW employees at WGME 13 deserve a fair contract now!

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