Staffers at The Current, Classical MPR look to unionize

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Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

The MPR/APM headquarters in St. Paul, Minn.

Music staffers at The Current and Classical MPR are calling on their management teams to voluntarily recognize their two Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists unions.

Employees sent their petitions to management Thursday. They were signed by more than 80% of employees, according to the staffers.

Management teams at the music services have received the petitions and are “currently reviewing the details of these letters and are considering the requests included,” a spokesperson for American Public Media Group, the organization that includes the music services, said in a statement.

Both unions said they are looking for a voice in the future directions of the stations in addition to equitable compensation.

SAG-AFTRA unions at NPR and in the Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media news and investigative units have been publicly outspoken in recent weeks about calling for racial and gender equity at their organizations. The latest union effort also called for changes.

Employees at The Current said in their petition that the station “consistently wields its influence to center white voices and narratives, effectively ignoring the racism and other forms of oppression that plague our community. Meanwhile, our staff has become less racially diverse over time. Through it all, Minnesota Public Radio has systematically silenced The Current’s women employees, perpetuated pay inequity, and failed to protect The Current’s hosts from physical and mental harm.”

“The Current is at a major turning point in its existence, with several influential positions waiting to be filled and a persistent identity crisis in need of resolution,” the employees wrote.

Classical MPR employees are calling for “an actionable and measurable plan to diversify our staffing and programming” along with “transparency in employee discipline and termination.” The Current employees made similar requests.

“We want Classical MPR to attract and retain a diverse workforce by upholding our mission and values,” Classical MPR employees said in their petition. “We want all of our colleagues protected—from our youngest workers to the most senior staffers, and to create an environment that feels welcoming and inspiring to future colleagues.”

The efforts to unionize come amid personnel controversies at the organizations. The only black classical music host on the syndicated Classical 24 service left APM and said that he had been fired over his altering of music playlists. Additionally, veteran MPR reporter Marianne Combs resigned over how editors handled her reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct against a DJ at The Current. Current DJ Eric Malmberg was fired the day after Combs resigned. 

This week, APMG CEO Jon McTaggart announced his decision to step down. The announcement was made in an email responding to unionized news staffers’ concerns about diversity, equity and inclusion.

The music staffers seeking to unionize tweeted Thursday that “while recent events involving our services have sparked a greater sense of urgency to unionize, our drive to organize goes beyond these incidents.”

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