Union complaint against KUOW dismissed

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Washington state’s Public Employment Relations Commission dismissed Monday a complaint of unfair labor practices filed by the SAG-AFTRA union against Seattle’s KUOW.

SAG-AFTRA said in its complaint filed in June 2018 that KUOW unlawfully discriminated against employees when it reorganized staffing during its drive-time news programming. In the April 2018 shuffle, announced less than two months after employees joined SAG-AFTRA, the station eliminated seven positions and created seven new positions. It encouraged employees in the eliminated positions to apply for the new positions and ended up retaining three of them.

SAG-AFTRA claimed that the layoffs were retaliation for employees joining the union and stemmed from an anti-union sentiment among station management.

But the commission ruled that SAG-AFTRA had failed to prove its allegations and that KUOW provided legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for its handling of the situation.  

“It is not the Commission’s role to second guess KUOW’s decisions on how to run the programs and the station,” the decision said.

SAG-AFTRA has the option to appeal the decision. A union spokesperson did not return an email seeking comment.

The union and the University of Washington are negotiating a contract for KUOW. The parties have tentatively agreed to terms defining overtime work and allowing temporary hourly employees to fill in for up to six months when a union position is vacant, according to an April 22 update on the contract talks posted on a University of Washington website. The parties are still negotiating over compensation.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Wednesday.

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