KUOW staffers join SAG-AFTRA union

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A group of staffers at KUOW in Seattle elected to join the SAG-AFTRA union Tuesday.

More than 70 percent of the potential members of the proposed bargaining unit at the station signed cards in favor of joining the union. The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission certified the union through a card-check process, according to SAG-AFTRA. The unit includes announcers, hosts, producers, reporters and digital and community engagement staff.

Thirty-nine of 51 eligible staff members indicated that they favored unionizing, according to KUOW GM Caryn Mathes. The station employs about 120 staffers.

Mathes said the University of Washington, the station’s licensee, is contesting 10 additional positions proposed for inclusion that it says are supervisory, with most editorial roles. If the union and university can’t reach an agreement, a hearing before the Washington State Public Employees Relations Commission may be required, according to Mathes.

Staff members say they’re determining priorities for a contract. “It’s pretty clear already that a lot of us want better pay and more of a say in how our newsroom operates,” said reporter John Ryan.

“Adjusting for inflation, I make less now than when I started here nine years ago,” he said.

Amina Al-Sadi, a producer for KUOW’s The Record, echoed concerns over wages due to Seattle’s rising cost of living.

“I just hope to see going forward that we’re able to negotiate salaries that keep our station an attractive place to work so the station can continue to grow and we can better serve our listeners,” she said.

“A lot of things were happening to the newsroom without any say from the reporters, and we thought: Well, maybe if we have a union we can create a template where we can have more of a say,” said Isolde Raftery, a KUOW online editor, in a station report on the union vote.

In a statement to Current, a UW spokesperson said the university is “committed to fair and equitable compensation and to fostering a culture that attracts and retains great talent. This is something we are always evaluating and will continue to do so moving forward.”

Other public radio stations with staffers represented by SAG-AFTRA include Minnesota Public Radio, WBEZ in Chicago, KQED in San Francisco, WNYC in New York City and KPCC in Pasadena, Calif. SAG-AFTRA also represents NPR’s news and programming employees.

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