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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

KGTV Workers Defeat Union Busters, Ratify Contract With New Owner

by Dennis Csillag, NABET-CWA local 54

The nearly 7-year battle for a new contract for workers at KGTV ABC10 in San Diego has finally come to an end.  NABET-CWA Local 54 members ratified a new pact on December 29th that protects job security, provides wage increases and includes a signing bonus.

In 2006, then-owner McGraw-Hill presented devastating proposals to workers, declared an impasse in negotiations, implemented their proposals and stopped deducting union dues from employee paychecks.  Local 54 members responded by handbilling KGTV advertisers, asking viewers to “Turn Off 10News” and staging protests during the television stations’ live news reports.

McGraw-Hill fought back by firing 3 employees, filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board to stop the protests (the charges were dismissed), refusing to return to the bargaining table and encouraging employees to decertify their Union of nearly 60 years.

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and the California Labor Federation both put KGTV Channel 10 on their “Do Not Patronize” lists. This resulted in lost advertising revenue, particularly political ads, and candidates, elected officials and community leaders refused interviews with the news station.

The entire mobilization campaign resulted in millions of dollars in lost ad revenue and a slip from first place to fifth in the television ratings as San Diegans shunned the station.

In 2009, the Union obtained a copy of McGraw-Hill’s Union Decertification Plan, which provided details of the stations’ plan to frustrate employees into decertifying their Union. The plan also contained profiles on each Union member, including a fear (such as loss of job or benefits) that could be used to obtain their vote to decertify.

The turning point came in March 2011. Employees voting in a decertification election overwhelmingly decided to keep their Union. Ninety days later, McGraw-Hill decided to exit the TV business, eventually selling all their stations to the E.W. Scripps Company.

Scripps was a much-needed breath of fresh air. When they took control of KGTV on December 31, 2011, Scripps executives immediately declared they were not union-busters. They promised to negotiate a new contract and, as a show of good faith, immediately negotiated a one-week transition bonus for represented-employees and restored dues deductions.

While it took time to build relationships and sort through the mess, NABET-CWA and Scripps reached a tentative agreement just a few days before Christmas and our members ratified the pact just a few days before the one-year anniversary of the Scripps takeover.

With a new agreement in place, NABET-CWA Local 54 and Scripps will work together to rebuild the station to its former success – and beyond.

We owe our success to the solidarity of our Local 54 members, the unwavering support of NABET, CWA, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and its member Unions, the California Labor Federation, and countless elected officials, candidates, community leaders, supportive advertisers and TV viewers who were willing to “Turn Off 10News” for the duration. Thank you -- now you can turn 10News back on!

Posted on 01/04/2013Permalink

More posts by Dennis Csillag

Reader Discussion

CONGRADULATIONS!!! Nice show of union support and strenght in numbers.

Sincerly,
Michael H. Mirsky
IBEW local 827 NJ

at 12:49 pm on Sat, Jan 5, 2013Posted by Michael H. Mirsky

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