In response to a recent effort to unionize by KPBS employees, the public-radio station’s management sent an email to staff last week, saying it opposes the move and is directing workers to meet with a hired consultant.
The letter from management in part reads:
KPBS strongly believes that a Union is not in the best interest of our employees or the future of KPBS. We sincerely want what’s best for our staff because you have helped build this organization from a college TV and Radio station to a trusted, successful and vital news organization that is respected locally and nationally.
In September, employees submitted a petition requesting that management recognize staff as members of SAG-AFTRA and proceed with the collective bargaining process.
According to a statement from the union, an “overwhelming majority” of reporters, producers and other staff at KPBS signed the petition to unionize.
In response, management contracted with labor negotiator Gregg Newstrand. Newstrand, a former labor-relations manager for the Portland public school district, drew the ire of unions there, who accused him of stalling negotiations and filed a complaint with Oregon's Employment Relations Board (ERB ultimately ruled in Newstrand's favor). The letter from KPBS management says that meetings between Newstrand and workers identified as leaders in the effort to unionize were scheduled to start last week.
The letter describes the meetings as an attempt to educate workers:
After careful deliberation, we believe KPBS employees need more information before making the very serious decision to unionize. Just like a complicated news story, we believe everyone will benefit from thorough education on both sides of the issue so that in the event of a vote, staff will have all the facts to make their own informed decision.
SAG-AFTRA is one of the largest unions in broadcast news, representing workers at National Public Radio, as well as a number of prominent public radio stations, including WNYC in New York City, KPCC in Pasadena and KQED in San Francisco.