WESA, WYEP union vote passes by 26-1 majority

click to enlarge WESA, WYEP union vote passes by 26-1 majority
CP Photo: Lisa Cunningham
Employees at Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corporation have voted 26-1 to unionize after announcing their plans to organize in late August.

Union members say today’s verdict demonstrates unity and determination among the broadcasters at Pittsburgh's twin public radio stations, WESA and WYEP.

“It was an overwhelming victory,” Sarah Boden, a health and science reporter with WESA, said during a press conference immediately after the count. “It’s a clear mandate from staff that this is the way forward.”

Now that their bargaining unit has been ratified under the sponsorship of SAG-AFTRA, the members can start working toward a new contract with PCBC management. In addition to pay raises, workers say they are also exploring improvements to benefits like parental leave and vacation time.

“Everyone has different reasons for wanting to be in this organization, including just wanting a voice at the table,” Boden said.

Radio staff say the move is also about amplifying their voice in discussions over the company’s future.

“This is a very successful organization,” said Maria Scapellato, a recently retired WESA radio host who spoke at today’s press conference. “But organizations move into the future, and unless the employees sit at the table with management and provide their vision as well, then you don’t know how this organization will look in the future.”

In a statement emailed to Pittsburgh City Paper, Terry O’Reilly, company president and CEO, says he’s “pleased that every member of staff had an opportunity to share their voice through the National Labor Relation Board’s confidential voting process.”

“We’re looking forward to resolving the issues that remain, and then to negotiating in good faith to reach a mutually-acceptable agreement with SAG-AFTRA and their members,” his statement continues.

When radio workers first announced their plans to unionize, they said they hoped management would voluntarily recognize their petition. But the company steered their request through the National Labor Hearing Board’s official processes, forcing a worker vote and allowing management to contest the makeup of the unit.

Workers are requesting 32 employees, including some editors and producers, be admitted. The company has reportedly challenged two membership requests, which will be determined in a subsequent NLRB hearing.

Despite some initial tussling, Kevin Gavin, longtime host of WESA’s The Confluence, said he’s hopeful the process will ultimately pay off for all parties.

“I look forward now to negotiating our first contract with PCBC,” Gavin said. “And frankly, I'm optimistic that the management of our organization will see that a mutually agreed upon deal will benefit the dedicated and talented content creators for both stations.”