WETA and subsidiary officially recognize union for ‘PBS NewsHour’ staff

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WETA's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

NewsHour Productions, the nonprofit subsidiary of WETA in Washington, D.C., voluntarily recognized a union for content staffers who work on PBS NewsHour.

“The organizing NewsHour employees completed the card check this morning, so we are now able to formally recognize the unit,” said Mary Stewart, WETA spokesperson, in a statement to Current Thursday.

“This major victory is a testament to our overwhelming majority support — we are excited to start negotiating our first contract with NewsHour,” the union organizing committee said in a Thursday statement to Current.

More than 70% of NewsHour Productions’ content creators signed a petition earlier this month to form a union with the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The petition said that the employees were advocating “for long-term staff investment, which will improve morale and reduce turnover.” 

The organizing committee told Current 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. WETA also has existing union agreements with directors and engineers.

NewsHour Productions is “pleased to officially recognize” the union, according to a Thursday staff memo Stewart shared with Current. “We support employees’ rights to unionize. … We welcome this newly formed group as represented by SAG-AFTRA and look forward to working together on a collective bargaining agreement.”

Stewart told Current July 13 that NewsHour Productions planned to voluntarily recognize the union. 

But one public hiccup came to light afterwards. In a Twitter thread posted July 21, NewsHour Union accused WETA and NewsHour Productions of attempting to renege on its stated intention to voluntarily recognize the union.

“Instead of accepting the inevitability of our union, @wetatvfm & @NewsHour actually intend to exclude many of our colleagues — people that are absolutely integral to the NewsHour and vital to getting content to our viewers every night. Without them, we would not have a show,” the union said. “We cannot accept this from @wetatvfm & @NewsHour because it reeks of UNION BUSTING. We will NEVER leave behind our colleagues who helped form this union!”

The organizing committee for the union told Current Thursday that WETA and NewsHour Productions “still intend to exclude” from the union eight positions that include software developers, archival researchers and production managers.

“We would not have a show without them. They regularly participate in editorial meetings and decision making,” said the committee. “We will be bargaining for their inclusion first thing. We want everyone who signed their name to have a voice and share in the benefits of collective bargaining, not be treated as second class citizens with lesser rights and benefits for the work we all do.”

NewsHour Productions also produces PBS NewsHour Weekend and Washington Week.

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