On Wednesday, staff members at Chicago Public Media (CPM) voted to join 165,000 media and entertainment professionals in choosing SAG-AFTRA as their union.
The new bargaining unit will cover 49 public media professionals who produce, report, host and present content for WBEZ, Vocalo, Sound Opinions and CPM’s digital services. CPM employees are looking forward to negotiating a first contract.
“Chicago Public Media is a valuable resource to all Chicagoans,” said Rob Wildeboer, criminal and legal affairs reporter for WBEZ. “The staff of CPM cares deeply about this organization and its mission. Public radio is more than a job. Staff at CPM are deeply committed to the station and we love our work. We have great leaders and a committed board and we believe organizing as staff members is an important step to achieving the goals we all share here: producing excellent journalism that serves the public and making this important local institution even stronger than it is today.”
The election was conducted Wednesday, Dec. 18, by the National Labor Relations Board Region 13 and took place from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Community Room at Navy Pier.
The vote was 40-7 in favor of joining SAG-AFTRA.
During their organizing campaign, the Chicago Public Media staffers received widespread support from fellow SAG-AFTRA broadcasters, including letters from broadcasters at National Public Radio, KPBS in San Diego (which also recently voted to join SAG-AFTRA) and the union’s Broadcast Steering Committee.
“Each of us can attest to the difference that our union has made in our lives and our careers,” the letter signed by 29 members of the Broadcast Steering Committee read. “We have ensured that some of the most powerful companies in the world treat the talent that is responsible for creating their content with respect. In all sectors of our industry, we’ve maintained our right to ensure the integrity of our work product, created and maintained fair compensation structures and benefits systems, and ensured high-quality working conditions.”
The letter from NPR members echoed the BSC thoughts, adding, “Forming your union with SAG-AFTRA can give you a stronger voice to negotiate improvements in pay, benefits and working conditions. We’re committed to the growth of public media journalism and entertainment programming. As new innovations and technology transform the landscape, it is important that those of us on the front lines ensure the highest standards of professionalism and quality programming.”
The Chicago Public Media staff joins a large family of local Chicago news and broadcast members working under SAG-AFTRA contracts at more than 20 local radio and television stations, as well as the growing list of public media outlets nationwide electing to join the union. Last month, 55 staffers at KPBS television and radio in San Diego elected to join the union. And nearly a year ago, staff of KPCC in Pasadena voted to join SAG-AFTRA. Along with NPR, SAG-AFTRA also represents public media professionals at KQED in San Francisco, WNYC in New York and KPLU in Tacoma, Wash.