Chicago Public Media employees petition to unionize

By Andrew Lapin

A majority of editorial staff members at Chicago Public Media signed a petition requesting union representation and presented it to CPM interim C.E.O. Alison Scholly Sept. 25. The broadcast union SAG-AFTRA seeks to represent staffers through its Chicago chapter.

Signees included 36 full-time editorial staff members and three additional employees, according to Vanessa Harris, CPM spokesperson, who declined further comment on the petition.

The petition asks CPM management to “recognize SAG-AFTRA as their representative and begin negotiating a contract that sets standards for their pay, benefits and work conditions,” said Leslie Simmons, assistant national director for communications at SAG-AFTRA, in a news release. Simmons declined further comment.

But the Oct. 1 shutdown of the federal government delayed their organizing movement. The National Labor Relations Board, which must approve the unionization request, is not accepting new case petitions because it is considered a “non-essential” federal agency.

SAG-AFTRA already represents public media employees at NPR, San Francisco’s KQED-TV/FM, New York’s WNYC and elsewhere. Its Chicago-area chapter includes bargaining units at pubTV station WTTW, as well as commercial outlets such as WGN-TV, owned by the Tribune Company.

Editors’ note (10/11/13): This article has been revised to include details about CPM staff who petitioned for SAG-AFTRA representation. An earlier version incorrectly reported that a majority of CPM employees had signed the petition. But CPM, which initially declined comment, later clarified that a majority of its editorial staff, not its entire workforce, petitioned for representation.
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