UPDATE: KDKA-TV producers officially unionize with SAG-AFTRA | Labor | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

UPDATE: KDKA-TV producers officially unionize with SAG-AFTRA

click to enlarge UPDATE: KDKA-TV producers officially unionize with SAG-AFTRA
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
KDKA-TV sign in Downtown Pittsburgh
UPDATE — 4:10 p.m., Mon., Nov. 23:
Nearly a month after they first moved to unionize, a group of KDKA-TV producers has joined forces with SAG-AFTRA, a national labor group that represents around 160,000 media and entertainment professionals.

On Fri., Nov. 20, it was announced that producers at KDKA-TV, the oldest news station in Pittsburgh, "officially unionized under a card check and voluntary recognition agreement between SAG-AFTRA and CBS Broadcasting, Inc.," according to a press release.

“This is a win for KDKA producers and a testament to the power of union membership," says SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. "Our new members can now negotiate to achieve the same types of protections and benefits their brother and sister SAG-AFTRA members – their own colleagues – have been enjoying for more than half of a century.”

The 27-member bargaining unit includes news, sports, web, and digital producers.
The KDKA-TV producers first informed station management of their intention to organize on Thu., Oct. 22 by presenting a petition signed by nearly 75% of their colleagues.

“This is a moment to celebrate," reads a statement by the  KDKA-TV producers organizing committee. "After more than 70 years, the producers and announcers who make KDKA are joined together in the same union. This is a major achievement for all of us. At the same time, we know there is a lot of work to be done. We look forward to negotiating for a fair contract that will make KDKA a better place for journalists, so we can continue to serve Western Pennsylvanians with strong local news for years to come.”

Original story published Nov. 10:
No one produces more news content than local TV stations. Not just for what comes through on televised newscasts, but also on the station's websites.

And many observers might not connect the dots, but it takes a lot of person power to generate that constant stream of content. Producers — including for digital, newscast, and sports — all create the content that most Pittsburghers see.

Today, those producers at KDKA-TV are seeking to form a labor union, and organizing through SAG-AFTRA. According to a press release, producers first informed management at the station of their organizing drive on Oct. 22, 2020, and showed management a petition that was signed by nearly three-fourths of their colleagues.

All told, there are 27 news, sports, web, and digital line producers in the unit seeking unionization. If successful, they would join station hosts, anchors, and meteorologists in the SAG-AFTRA union, and are seeking to be in the same bargaining unit as these announcers.

"This is an exciting and important achievement for the employees of KDKA-TV," said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. "We are thrilled that these talented professionals have chosen to organize with SAG-AFTRA."

KDKA-TV started in 1949 as one of the first commercial television stations in America. The organizing committee of producers believes a union will help them carry on the station’s tradition.
“We are proud to work at KDKA and to provide the region with high-quality news every single day,” reads a statement from the KDKA-TV Producers organizing committee. “And today, we are just as proud to join Pittsburgh’s rich tradition of labor unions fighting for workers’ rights. All of us joined KDKA because we believe in informing the public and providing context for the ‘first draft of history.’ Organizing with SAG-AFTRA will ensure that we can continue to provide the professional journalism that Pittsburghers have come to expect from KDKA-TV since 1949.”

While full-time KDKA-TV announcers are unionized, other employees are not. This fall, one freelance reporter was struggling to pay for health care bills after her daughter’s accident. Local small businesses and friends raised money for her, and a crowdfund raised $94,000 of the $100,000 goal. KDKA-TV is a subsidiary of communication giant ViacomCBS, which netted more than $3 billion in profits in 2019.

KDKA-TV is the largest television station in Pittsburgh, and usually receives massive amounts of web views. According to a Pew Research survey, KDKA-TV is the most viewed local news in the Pittsburgh area, with 17% of adults in the region saying their turn there first for local news.