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An Open Letter To NH Candidates From WMUR Production Union Steward On The State Of Negotiations

Below is an open letter to all of the New Hampshire candidates.  The Union, IBEW Local 1228, has previously asked candidates to continue to boycott WMUR sponsored debates including the scheduled debates next week. 

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PBS News Hour Control Room


Dear Candidates,

My name is Brian Wilson. I am a shop steward for the Production Department bargaining unit at WMUR. I am writing to you to explain the difficult situation our workers have faced as we have fought for our first labor agreement with Hearst Corporation, the station’s owner.

But, I would first like to express my sincerest appreciation for the support that all of you give to workers across New Hampshire. It is critical that our leaders take a stand for working families who are struggling to make ends meet during these still difficult economic times. We are happy to see a group of candidates who have already shown their strong support.

Our union was certified 16 months ago in April of 2015. Over the past year we have never been able to schedule more than two days to meet in most months and on some occasions have had to wait 6 weeks or more between negotiation dates offered by Hearst.

One of our most important issues is retirement security. Many of our bargaining unit members have a company pension which pre-dates the certification of the Union. Since the beginning of negotiations, Hearst has maintained that they will not allow these employees to continue earning service credit toward any pension plan under a collective bargaining agreement. No one should be forced to lose their retirement security just because they exercised their right to union representation. This is an egregious union busting tactic that has no place in a fair negotiation.

Our other major issue has been pay. WMUR pays low wages. Several of our bargaining unit members are paid a flat $10 per hour with no opportunity for an annual merit increase. We have repeatedly offered wage plans that are competitive with other stations in the market but the company has countered with offers that do little to improve the majority of our workers’ wage situation. There has also been no explanation nor solution offered for gross pay inequities among many similarly positioned workers.

Although it has been over a year and half since we voted to organize, our unit still shares a strong sense of optimism and a willingness to continue to negotiate in good faith to achieve a better future for members.

I want to thank you again for your attention to our issues and for your support. We must protect our right to organize. It is clearly under attack.

Sincerely,

Brian Wilson

Production Asst.

WMUR-TV

WMUR Still Refuses To Negotiate With Unionized Workers, NH Dems Plan To Boycott Debates

Fair Contract With WMUR

WMUR Local 1228 members at an informational picket in 2015

NH Democrats boycott of WMUR sponsored debates unwavering 

WMUR Channel 9 studio staff Directors and Production Technicians formed a Union to improve their wages and working conditions at the Hearst owned station back in April of 2015 and have been trying to bargain their first Contract ever since. The Union has proposed either leaving the workers in the pension they are in or moving them to the Hearst Union Pension Plan that 12 other WMUR employees are already in. The company is refusing to do that simply because they formed a Union.

After months of negotiations WMUR refused to include the workers in their pension.  The union began to call for help from some powerful allies.

By the end of 2015, the First in the Nation Primary was really heating up in New Hampshire as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were battling for the top spot in the coveted NH Primary.  The two were set to face off in a WMUR sponsored debate on December 19th when Clinton, O’Malley, and Sanders heard about the struggles of the WMUR workers.  All three sent letters to Jeff Bartlett, WMUR’s station manager, urging them reopen negotiations with the IBEW Local 1228 workers.

IBEW Local 1228 Business Manager Fletcher Fischer said,  “We want to thank both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns for their support so far, and look forward to their continued efforts to help our workers hold onto what they already have. We are simply asking for status quo pension conditions. For these talented, dedicated and loyal workers, this is a giant slap in the face.”

Then Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, chair of the Democratic National Party, contacted WMUR where WMUR/Hearst lied to her about who was failing to negotiate.  She was told that the union, not WMUR/Hearst was refusing to negotiate before the debate.

“I find it unbelievable that WMUR/Hearst lied to Debbie Wasserman Schultz about our willingness to settle this contract since they have little or no regard for workers who just want to keep the pension they already have”, Fischer said.

All of the candidates and the DNC agreed to boycott the debate unless WMUR was removed as a sponsor of the debate and agreed to negotiate with the newly elected union.

ABC and Hearst caved to the DNC. “As a result of WMUR’s unwillingness to move forward on scheduling negotiations between the Hearst Corporation and Production Department employees represented by IBEW Local 1228 prior to the debate, we will no longer include WMUR as a co-sponsor of the debate,” said Wasserman-Schultz and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

“WMUR management’s refusal to meet in good faith with its employees stands in gross violation of that principle so I’m pleased that DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and N.H. Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley have taken this step,” stated IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson 

After the debate was concluded the members of IBEW Local 1228 did meet with WMUR but still could not reach an agreements.  Now nearly 10 months later, and well over 15 months since they started negotiating, there still is no contract.

Today, the NH Democratic Party reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the WMUR workers, by continuing to boycott WMUR sponsored debates.

“We told WMUR Station Management earlier this year that New Hampshire Democratic candidates would not participate in WMUR sponsored debates as long as the negotiations between the Union Production workers and Hearst were not resolved.” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “We have not changed our position and the station knows it.”

Hearst media is well known for their strong anti-union stance going all the way back to the Newsboys strike of 1899.  They continue to punish workers who elect to unionize.

“Hearst hasn’t allowed a bargaining unit of reporters in Pittsburgh who unionized in 2012 into their Union pension plan, and are still fighting for their first contract. Hearst says they’re not about to do it for the WMUR production workers.” said Fletcher Fischer, Business Manager of IBEW Local 1228 who represents the workers.

Hearst and WMUR are raking in millions as they refuse to add the 12 unionized employees to their already existing pension plan.

Screen ShotA report by Ad Age (analysis of data from Kantar Media’s CMAG — see attachment) showed that WMUR has either sold or has scheduled $34,768,054.00 in political advertising. They are number one in the top ten stations for money spent and/or booked on presidential campaign ads to date (from April 5, 2015 through Nov. 7, 2016) as of June 2016.

“Despite these tens of millions in revenue to Hearst owned WMUR, the Hearst Company is trying to steal the pensions of 10 workers who make the product that generates the ad revenues. This is nothing short of cruel corporate greed and overt union busting.” said Glen Brackett, President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

Local 1228 also represents the Photographers, Master Control Operators and Live Truck Operators at WMUR. “The production workers are thankful that the New Hampshire Democrats for standing up for working people in the state against the Hearst money machine. It would be refreshing if the Republican candidates would do the same. After all, if the Contract is not settled in a month or so, Republican candidates will have to debate on whatever station the Democrats contract with.” said Fischer.

WMUR has long been the station of record for political coverage in New England, but Hearst’s stand against their workers has given the station a black eye. In December of 2015, the Democratic National Committee removed them as a sponsor of the Democratic Presidential debate in Manchester. To date, there have been no WMUR sponsored or broadcast political debates.

The IBEW informed us that as of today, no bargaining dates are scheduled. The Company said they would not be available throughout August.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Meets With Picketing WMUR Workers, Helps Broker A Deal To Reopen Negotiations

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Yesterday it was announced that unionized workers at WMUR would be picketing the arrival of Senator Bernie Sanders at the WMUR studios this morning.  True to their word, workers showed up holding signs stating the WMUR and Hearst Media Corporation are refusing to negotiate with the newly formed union.

Sources tell the NH Labor News that Senator Sanders arrived and met with the workers and asked what he could do to help them.  The union discussed, in great detail, what their issues are and that all they want is to get back to the negotiating table to resolve their contract dispute.

The main issue for the union is that WMUR and Hearst Media are refusing to negotiate the workers pension, saying the pension is “off the table” and have failed to schedule timely negotiations.

The union also asked for Senator Sanders to have a “sit down” with WMUR President and General Manager, Jeff Bartlett, to schedule more timely bargaining sessions and to have an open discussion about adding the 22 workers to the WMUR pension program already in effect for other WMUR employees.

Senator Sanders said he would go in to the WMUR studios and request a meeting with Bartlett.

IBEW 1228 Business Agent, Fletcher Fischer told us that he was pleased with the results of the informational picket.

“Senator Sanders was very helpful and we are grateful,” said Fischer.”Bartlett is now open to negotiating all of our issues.  We have provided him multiple dates within the next two weeks and now we are just waiting for the Hearst Corporation to meet with us.”

There is still the looming issue of whether or not Sanders and Hillary Clinton – who has previously voiced her support of the WMUR union members – will boycott the WMUR debate or if the DNC will pull WMUR’s debate completely if the contract dispute is not resolved by the December 19th debates. .

Images below curtesy of IBEW 1228. 

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