Update as of March 16
WGBH management has imposed certain of the terms of its final and best offer which the AEEF-CWA Local 1300 union had rejected. That offer may be read here.
Update as of March 14
Regarding recent developments in the six-month-old labor dispute, Jordan Weinstein, president of AEEF-CWA Local 1300 sent a press release which BMInt excerpts: “ … [on March 13] members of AEEF-CWA Local 1300 voted overwhelmingly to reject WGBH’s final offer for a new collective bargaining agreement (97% of all eligible voters in AEEF’s membership participated in the ratification vote. Of all eligible votes cast, 93% rejected management’s final offer.
“Today our members sent a clear signal to WGBH that this final offer is absolutely unacceptable,” said Weinstein. “The next steps will be to notify the federal mediator of our vote results, and to ask WGBH management to abandon implementing the terms of their final offer. Our goal now is to return to the bargaining table and continue negotiating fair working conditions as part of a mutually acceptable contract.”
Jeanne Hopkins, vice president for communications and government relations for WGBH, responded, “It’s unfortunate that the union has voted not to accept WGBH’s offer, which maintains wage increases, offers employees flexibility to grow, and [gives] generous benefits at a difficult economic time. What is clear is that this is far from an overwhelming decision, as close to half of the union members did not vote against the WGBH proposal — 188 out of nearly 300 union members.”
Asked for an explanation for their differing interpretations of the voting numbers, Hopkins noted, “There are close to 300 members of this union, but they have said only 203 voted. So while 188 of the 203 votes cast gives them that percent, it leaves out the fact that there remains close to 100 union members who were not eligible or did not vote.”
From Weinstein comes this follow-up: “There are 280 members of the union of whom 210 are in good standing, that is, current in their dues payment. Seventy members were unqualified to vote because they were in arrears. The main reason that one-third of the union members were not current was that WGBH stopped collecting dues as a payroll deduction.”
Jeanne Hopkins adds in rebuttal or clarification, “Union members were not prevented from paying their dues and had opportunity to do so, if they chose to.”
BMInt will continue to follow this story —whether negotiations will resume or WGBH will impose its final offer.
The six-month-old labor dispute between the WGBH Foundation and the 280 workers of AEEF/CWA Local 1300 (the station’s largest union representing the production and service group staff ) is coming to a climax. On February 25, the Foundation’s negotiating team presented its “last, best and final proposal” for a new collective bargaining agreement. Management negotiators then departed from the table and gave the union until March 15 to accept or reject the contract. If the union rejects the contract management has said it will declare an impasse and unilaterally impose the terms of their final offer.
The concessions which management is requesting are draconian according to union spokesmen. BMInt believes that our most productive role in this unhappy story is the publication of four important documents which will allow our readers to make their own unfiltered evaluations of the opposing cases’ merits. The final offer from management with considerable detail on salaries and policy is here; the cover letter from management to the members of the union is here. The union’s official response is here, and a fact sheet summarizing the union’s interpretation of the issues is here.
WGBH spokesman, Jeanne Hopkins would not return BMInt’s call. But we certainly understand that the WGBH Foundation does not have unlimited coffers and that it must balance its desires to compensate its employees against the limitations of its fiscal realities. From our reading, though, the issue of compensation is far from the most contested.
While BMInt is not offering an opinion of the merits of the opposing briefs, we were particularly struck by some of the language in the WGBH letter to the union members. The final offer document seems to require considerable sacrifices from the members of the union, including the forfeiture of the right to express grievances publicly. Furthermore, according to union spokesman, Jordan Weinstein, management is asking for the right to outsource any of the union’s work and to be permitted to terminate any on-air or production employee without cause.
That management asks the union members to accept this contract as an, “… an investment…” sounds truly Orwellian, unless management is accurate in its implication that without the implementation all of their requested concessions, no jobs would exist at WGBH because the entire enterprise could collapse—especially if this dispute is viewed through the prism of recent history which has lead to the bankruptcy of General Motors and the cancellation of the Detroit Symphony season.