WHYY workers vote to join union

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Employees at another public media station joined a union Wednesday, with a majority of eligible workers at Philadelphia’s WHYY voting in favor of representation by SAG-AFTRA.

Seventy employees voted in favor of joining SAG-AFTRA. Just one opposed representation. Support for the union had grown — 80% of eligible staff signed the initial petition announcing intent to unionize.

The union covers radio, TV and digital staffers involved in creating content — including reporters, producers and editors, according to the notice of election from the National Labor Relations Board. Union eligibility for nine positions has not been resolved, according to the notice.

“We’re thrilled by our strong showing,” the WHYY Organizing Committee said in a statement. “We look forward to beginning a democratic process to hear from our members about what they would value most from a contract with management.” 

“WHYY, of course, accepts the results of the election and will work to negotiate in good faith a contract with the union,” station spokesperson Art Ellis said in a statement. “The outcome of this election will not change WHYY’s ongoing commitment to sustaining our organization in a tough media market to provide a trusted media outlet for our region. We look forward to working together to have an even stronger WHYY.”

The vote came less than a month after WHYY petitioned management to voluntarily recognize the union. 

Workers said in their petition that by forming a union, they seek “fair compensation; opportunities for advancement and professional development; predictable and reasonable work schedules; transparency and a meaningful say in the decisions that affect the direction of our work and our station.” 

Management did not voluntarily recognize the union. Ellis said in a statement following the petition’s delivery that management respected employees’ rights to form a union and looked forward “to discussing with them whether the most beneficial way to do this is through SAG-AFTRA.”

Ellis told Current in an email Wednesday that management held about 15 “departmental meetings … to inform all employees — whether eligible for the union or not — about the unionization process and how it could impact the organization.”

The union claimed on Twitter last week that management was using “playbook anti-union” tactics and said that nonunion workers could be laid off or lose their health benefits because of the unionization effort. 

Ellis told Current that during the meetings, “managers shared information about the collective bargaining process, economic and work rule issues and what WHYY has already been doing to listen to employee concerns. Discussion was encouraged in all the sessions. We did not make any promises or threats regarding specific benefits or other policies (which of course is prohibited by NLRB rules).”

The WHYY employees join staffers at a growing number of public media organizations that have joined SAG-AFTRA seeking to address issues including pay equity and having a voice in the future of their stations.

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