Content staffers at NewsHour Productions, a nonprofit subsidiary of WETA in Washington, D.C., that produces PBS NewsHour, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Washington Week, announced plans Tuesday to form a union.
In a press release, staffers said they are forming a union to advocate “for long-term staff investment, which will improve morale and reduce turnover.”
“We love our jobs. We are driven by NewsHour’s mission,” employees said. “It is our hope that NewsHour Productions and WETA management will recognize our union and allow us a protected seat at the table as we work toward a more sustainable company.”
More than 70% of NewsHour Productions’ content creators signed a petition to form a union with the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the release said. In a statement to Current Wednesday, the organizing committee said that more than 50 producers, reporters, editors and archival staffers signed the petition. Anchors and correspondents are already represented by SAG-AFTRA in a separate unit.
The committee said staff morale and turnover “have been a longstanding issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide racial reckoning after the death of George Floyd.”
“In the past year, NewsHour has lost decades of accumulated experience and talent as colleagues and especially staffers of color left NewsHour,” the committee added. “Such high turnover also meant more work placed on fewer people, creating larger workloads and longer hours for remaining staff. Turnover begets lower morale, which we feel management has not properly addressed and therefore have turned to forming a union as a way to gain a seat at the table where decisions are made about staff to better improve the working environment for all.”
WETA said in a statement to Current Wednesday that NewsHour Productions “has long-standing and productive agreements with many unions, including SAG-AFTRA, IBEW, and the Directors Guild of America. We support employees’ rights to form a union, and we have common goals of creating the best possible workplace as we navigate dynamic changes in our industry. WETA and NHP value the contributions of each union and non-union staff member in fulfilling our mission to serve the public through the power of media.”
WETA spokesperson Mary Stewart said station leaders intend to voluntarily recognize the union. “There is a process … that has to take place before we can officially say that, but that is our intent — to recognize the union voluntarily,” she said.
NewsHour Productions has gone through significant changes over the past year. Last year, it took over operations of Washington Week and PBS NewsHour Weekend, further consolidating PBS’ national news programs under one roof.