We’ve been following this story since late January when an administrative law judge ruled in favor of a union representing employees at Stephens Media Group’s upstate New York radio stations. This week Stephens filed an unfair labor practice charge against The National Association of Broadcast Employee & Technicians.
Stephens says the NABET is refusing to bargain collectively with Stephens Media Group in Watertown and Massena. Owner David Stephens said the previous collective bargaining agreements expired almost two years ago. “Yet, the union refuses to bargain in good faith to reach new agreements. We had no choice but to file these charges.”
These new charges come on the heels of the recent ruling by National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge Charles Muhl. At the heart of Muhl’s ruling is whether or not SMG and the union are at impasse over previously negotiated points. Muhl ruled they were not.
Stephens believes SMG and the union are at an impasse over the issue of who’s going to control the entertainment value of the stations. “The union’s position is such that decisions should be based on DJ seniority alone. SMG prefers a merit-based system whereby DJ’s are hired and air shifts are filled based on their talent, for both live and voice-tracked shifts.”
Stephens says to remain competitive SMG needs the ability to program the stations as it sees fit. “Talent, and not seniority, should determine who gets to be heard on the air. The union refuses to negotiate this point with SMG. Their failure to negotiate is a violation of the law and proof we are at impasse. Further, the unions refusal impacts our ability to expand and create new, higher-paying jobs for our employees.”