NPR union members to meet regarding sexual harassment

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Members of the SAG-AFTRA union at NPR will meet Monday to discuss the sexual harassment issues that have come to light at the network, according to a memo obtained by Current.

“We want to hear your ideas and concerns about issues related to sexual harassment at NPR and the dismissal of our News VP,” said the memo, signed by eight of the network’s union stewards. “… We want to make certain that systems are in place at NPR, and at the union, to insure we’re aware of and can respond effectively to all instances of sexual harassment.”

“The union will insist on a full accounting of how NPR investigates claims of workplace misconduct,” the stewards wrote. “We intend to be part of the conversation to improve that process, making it as independent and as transparent as possible.”

The meeting will include a discussion about legal rights and resources for victims of sexual harassment and how the union can help.

Michael Oreskes, NPR’s top news executive, resigned Wednesday following a Washington Post report detailing accusations of sexual harassment against Oreskes that occurred in the 1990s. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reported Friday on All Things Considered that he had spoken with nine women who said they had uncomfortable experiences with Oreskes. “… [Many] gave closely coinciding accounts of how conversations on mentoring quickly turned personal and carried implications of romance or sex,” Folkenflik said.

NPR employees have questioned how network management handled the sexual harassment claims, according to NPR employees who have spoken to Current and other outlets. NPR CEO Jarl Mohn has apologized to staff and met with employees Friday to hear their concerns.

In an interview on NPR’s Here & Now Friday, Folkenflik said employees who attended the meeting told him that Mohn “especially singled out … the women in the workforce and said ‘I should have acted sooner and should have acted more forcefully.’”

In a memo sent to staff Saturday evening and obtained by Current, Mohn said that “remarkably brave women stepped forward to share their personal stories” at the Friday meeting. “Your collective support for them, as well as grief and anger, filled the room,” he said.

Mohn said the NPR board will choose an outside law firm to investigate the network’s handling of complaints about Oreskes. A summary and recommendations from the report will be shared with staff, Mohn said.

NPR also plans to strengthen sexual harassment training for employees, Mohn said. “Every person at NPR needs to have a multi-dimensional understanding of harassment,” the CEO wrote. “I include myself in that.” The network will also select a group of employees “who you can go to, when you want to discuss a complaint or uncomfortable situation,” Mohn said, and it is creating a hotline to report complaints.

“This is just the beginning of what I want to be a culture shift at NPR,” he wrote.

Oreskes will not receive severance pay or other separation benefits, Mohn added.