The following is an archive of information regarding the negotiations between AFTRA and management of WEEK/WHOI. Negotiations between the broadcast units, represented by SAG-AFTRA, and the station owners continue.
Feb. 20, 2012
Contract talks between the Peoria Local and the management of WEEK/WHOI, Granite Broadcasting/Silverpoint Capital, are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on Feb. 21-23.
This latest negotiations session marks the third time both sides have met since Granite was prompted by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling to return to the bargaining table.
"We remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached," said AFTRA Peoria President Garry Moore.
At issue is Granite’s proposal to outsource work done by broadcasters at WEEK/WHOI. The ongoing dispute has drawn large local support for the broadcasters, including community rallies.
In November 2011, the NLRB settled a charge by AFTRA alleging Granite engaged in unfair labor practices. The settlement prompted the station to agree to a resumption of contract talks.
"We've made progress on a few items, but we've yet to agree on some big items, like wages and jurisdiction," said Moore.
While some longtime Union members have left the station over the course of the dispute, Moore says remaining and new members are "in solidarity" in their efforts to get a fair contract.
AFTRA and WEEK/WHOI Going Back to the Bargaining Table
Nov. 04, 2011
AFTRA will be returning to the table to bargain with Granite Broadcasting, owners/operators of WEEK/WHOI.
The news comes after a settlement was reached between AFTRA, Granite and the National Labor Relations Board. AFTRA filed unfair labor charges against Granite after negotiations broke down in late March and this settlement was reached as part of those proceedings.
"We look forward to the opportunity to get back to the table and bargain for a fair contract. An equitable negotiation and a fair contract is all we've ever wanted," said AFTRA Peoria Local President Garry Moore.
As part of this settlement, the company will be required to post a notice detailing the particulars of the agreement to employees. Some of the settlement addresses individual issues, but the important development for the AFTRA-represented employees is that Granite must rescind any part of the contract improperly imposed and return to bargain in good faith with AFTRA.
Moore said: "I am very proud of the reporters, anchors, producers and photographers at WEEK/WHOI. They have stood up for themselves and their profession admirably. AFTRA is also grateful to the community for the support shown to us throughout this process. It's unfortunate the NLRB had to be brought into the process to get us back to the table. Moving forward, we're hopeful we'll get a fair contract."
AFTRA Peoria launched a campaign earlier this year to get WEEK/WHOI back to the bargaining table, including taking to social media with videos and a Facebook page. Recently, AFTRA and members of Screen Actors Guild, including actors Jason George ("Grey's Anatomy"), Jenny O'Hara ("Big Love") and SAG First Vice-President Ned Vaughn ("The Event") posted videos in support of their efforts to bargain a fair contract. Click here to view the videos on Facebook.
AFTRA Members Announce ‘Day of Reckoning’ Rally for WEEK/WHOI-TV in Central Illinois
July 12, 2011
Community Rally to be Held on Friday, July 15
Members of the Peoria Local of AFTRA announced that on Friday, July 15 they will hold a 'Day of Reckoning' rally for WEEK/WHOI-TV. AFTRA members are inviting community and business allies, including local labor, civic and religious leaders to join them for the rally.
The rally will be held at 5:00 p.m. Central Standard Time at the United Auto Workers Local 974 located at 3025 Springfield Road, East Peoria, next to the WEEK/WHOI-TV station headquarters.
The news team at WEEK/WHOI-TV, who are members of AFTRA, plan to protest the Company’s recent announcement that it will impose its “last, best and final” proposal to employees, despite repeated offers by AFTRA negotiators to return to the negotiating table.
AFTRA members began contract negotiations with station owners in November 2010. The negotiations stalled on February 18, 2011 despite months of good faith bargaining and offers of compromise by AFTRA members to many of the Corporation’s proposals. Since then, AFTRA members have continued to work without a contract, and now the station’s owners have informed workers they plan to unilaterally impose the new terms on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
The corporation’s move to “impose” its proposals on the WEEK/WHOI-TV news team would subject the employees to a number of substandard working conditions that threatens to damage the station’s ability to deliver local news to the Central Illinois community.
"The corporate negotiators’ proposals, if imposed, would open the door to have the local news we have delivered to our community for decades outsourced some 300 miles away to Fort Wayne, Indiana, allow non-professionals to do our work and include a host of other takeaways. The Corporation’s terms seriously compromise our ability to do our jobs well, and undermine the commitment that the WEEK/WHOI-TV AFTRA members have made to provide our viewers in Central Illinois with the quality local news they deserve," said Garry Moore, AFTRA Peoria Local President.
Moore continued: "The Corporation’s decision to impose is revealing: Silver Point Capital, which owns Granite Broadcasting, is a private investment firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut, and it is investing in a posh $4 billion casino in Macau, China. Clearly, this is a Corporation that is more concerned about its investments in China than providing our families, friends and community with quality news from the names and faces they know and trust. Imposing this contract is an insult to the community, and we are calling for their support to make July 15 a ‘day of reckoning’ for Silver Point Capital and Granite Broadcasting."
In addition to Granite Broadcasting, which operates stations in local markets around the country, Silver Point Capital has holdings in various industries in the United States. In 2005, Silver Point acquired a controlling interest in FiberMark, an upstate New York company. Shortly after Silver Point took over the operations of FiberMark, the firm implemented devastating changes for the workforce including cutting wages and benefits for working families. A few years later, Silver Point Capital sold FiberMark for a profit. The firm also has an account, through Silver Point Capital Offshore Fund, in the Cayman Islands and offices in the United Kingdom.
AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon praised local union members and encouraged their community allies to continue standing united. She said: “July 15 is an important and emblematic date in our labor struggle in Central Illinois. All across the nation, union workers, our families and our communities are being stripped of our rights: we are under attack from corporate interests that have nothing to do with enriching American culture and informing our citizens, and everything to do with increasing payouts and bonuses to company executives. I salute the AFTRA employees at WEEK/WHOI-TV and the members of the AFTRA Peoria Local for their courage and their resolve, and I applaud their local community members for standing up for their right to receive quality local news.”
A recent petition drive garnered more than 2,700 signatures from area residents in support of the 30 AFTRA employees at WEEK/WHOI-TV who provide professional, quality local news and weather in Central Illinois.
Tweet Your Support for Quality Journalism in Central Illinois
July 14, 2011
Station Management Imposes New Contract on Unit
AFTRA members who work at Peoria’s WEEK/WHOI-TV are Central Illinois’ home team. We are photographers, producers, reporters, anchors, meterologists and mulitmedia journalists. Combined, we account for more than 500 years of local news experience. Together, we are working through our union, AFTRA, to bring our community the best possible news, sports and weather coverage they deserve because we are local professionals committed to doing our jobs well.
But here’s a scary forecast that you won’t see televised on WEEK/WHOI-TV: Wall Street is threatening the news professionals who Peoria – and all of Central Illinois – have come to know and trust. A company called Silver Point, a private equity firm, has controlling interest in Granite Broadcasting which owns the local broadcast operation of WEEK-TV and WHOI News. If Silver Point has its way, local news professionals may soon be off the air.
AFTRA members who work at WEEK/WHOI-TV have been in contract negotiations with station owners since November 2010. Negotiations stalled on Feb. 18, 2011. Despite months of good faith bargaining, concessions to company proposals and repeated requests by AFTRA for the company to return to the negotiating table, to date, the company has flatly refused. On July 16, Management imposed the terms of their "last, best and final" offer.
The truth is Silver Point is not interested in local news. It is only interested in making money. Silver Point has cut the local news budget, eliminated the jobs of 20 union engineers, installed robotic cameras in their place, has piped in local weather from Fort Wayne, Indiana and soon, the entire local news broadcast could be outsourced to another city.
Will you wake up one day to find your local news is no longer local?
Peoria’s local news team is fighting back because the people of Central Illinois deserve better, and so do you! You have the power to prevent this. Please, help us raise our voice.
AFTRA Members Escalate Fight for Fair Contract in Central Illinois
May 17, 2011
AFTRA distributed flyers and a petition to the neighborhood homes surrounding Peoria’s WEEK/WHOI-TV local station headquarters. The Union also passed out flyers to the Darien, Conn., residence and neighbors of Granite Broadcasting’s CEO Peter Markham. The flyers and petition call on the community to support professional AFTRA broadcast journalists in their stalled contract negotiations with station owners of WEEK-WHOI-TV, which is owned by Connecticut-based Granite Broadcasting.
The flyers and petition state that the “Professional News Team at Central Illinois’ WEEK/WHOI is standing up for their professions, their communities and decent jobs by fighting back against Granite Broadcasting’s attacks on local and professional news. Granite Broadcasting management is threatening to possibly outsource local news, degrade working conditions for your neighborhood news team and allow amateurs to inform your community!” AFTRA members are calling on Peoria’s WEEK-WHOI-TV and Markham’s neighbors to “join your news team and your community in their efforts to save local news.”
Members of the AFTRA Peoria Local who work at WEEK/WHOI-TV have been in contract negotiations with station owners since November 2010. Negotiations stalled on Feb. 18, 2011 and since then AFTRA members have been working without a contract. Despite months of good faith bargaining, concessions to company proposals in recognition of the WEEK/WHOI-TV’s challenged financial operations and repeated requests by AFTRA negotiators and unit members for the company to return to the negotiating table, to date, the company has flatly refused.
“We have tried over and over again to successfully bargain a contract that provides for our members and honors their commitment and duty to their community in Central Illinois,” said J.D. Miller, Chief Negotiator and AFTRA Kansas City and St. Louis Local Executive Director. Our efforts to reach a fair contract have been ignored, so we are now escalating our approach. By reaching out to these executives’ friends and neighbors, we hope to make them realize that local journalism is important to this community.”
As outlined in the flyers and petition, AFTRA members’ chief concern is not wages or benefits. Instead, they consider the company’s proposal to outsource local news reporting a threat to their commitment to provide their community with quality, locally reported news. So far, the pleas of the 30 professional journalists represented by AFTRA have been ignored by the station’s General Manager Mark Desantis, who lives in Peoria, as well as by executives at Granite Broadcasting, including Markham who lives almost 1,000 miles away in Darien, Conn.
WEEK/WHOI-TV is owned by Connecticut-based Granite Broadcasting which in turn is owned by Silver Point Capital (www.silverpointcapital.com) whose website describes it as a “distressed debt and credit-focused private investment firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut.” Silver Point Capital has been previously reportedly as a $6 billion private hedge fund under the leadership of two former Goldman Sachs executives, Robert J. O’Shea and Edward Mulé. The fund focuses on the mid-sized distress market, and it is one of the most profitable and active private hedge funds in the financial sector.
While American middle-class broadcast journalists in Central Illinois are fighting for dignity in their professions and to keep news reporting local in their community, Silver Point Capital has recently purchased millions of dollars of Lehman Brothers' debt and the company is also working to build a $4 billion casino in Macau, China. The deal is currently in the courts due to funding issues between Silver Point Capital and other partners in the deal.
Along with owning Granite Broadcasting, Silver Point Capital has holdings in various industries in the United States. In 2005 Silver Point acquired a controlling interest in FiberMark, an upstate New York company. Shortly after Silver Point took over the operations of FiberMark, the firm implemented devastating changes for the workforce including cutting wages and benefits for working families. A few years later, Silver Point Capital sold FiberMark for a profit. The firm also has an account, through Silver Point Capital Offshore Fund, in the Cayman Islands and offices in the United Kingdom.
The flyers and petition urge neighbors to call Destantis and Markham at their homes to express support for AFTRA members in Peoria who are working to provide their community with quality local news reporting.