In a nearly unanimous vote, WESA and WYEP workers choose to unionize
Note: This story was reported and edited independently, with no input from WESA staff or management.
About half of the staff at Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corporation will soon be represented by SAG-AFTRA, a national union for broadcasters.
Workers at WESA and WYEP voted 26 to 1 in favor of joining the union. The ballots went out by mail last month and were counted at the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
“With today’s victory, [employees] begin the exciting process of bargaining their first contract,” SAG-AFTRA said in a press release. “They are hoping to start the process immediately and are looking forward to sitting across the table from the leaders of PCBC to discuss how to create a more equitable organization for workers.”
“This is really exciting. We’ve been working on this for many months,” said Marylee Williams, a producer and editor on WESA’s The Confluence. “It just feels like a real validation for the fact that Pittsburgh is a union city. Our media are union shops. And that people that are part of this bargaining unit [...] all want to have more of a hand in the future of our organizations and the longevity of them.”
“I think people supported this union because they’re hopeful about the company,” Williams added.
The new bargaining unit will include content creators such as reporters, hosts, deejays, and other content creators at WESA and WYEP.
Organizers say their top issues are workplace transparency, career growth, and wage equity. Several have taken second jobs to supplement their income. Workers have also said that they want the company, whose staff is overwhelmingly white, to improve its approach to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Thursday’s vote is not a done deal. Workers and management now have a week to file objections, and they still have to address disputes over the exact size of the new bargaining unit. Organizers think it should include 32 employees in all, but management has pushed back, arguing that two of those workers do not belong in the union.
“We’re pleased that every member of staff had an opportunity to share their voice through the NLRB’s confidential voting process,” said Terry O’Reilly, Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting’s president, in an email. “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.”
The union push is part of a larger trend in public media. WHYY in Philadelphia and WBUR Boston workers voted to join SAG-AFTRA in 2019, and WAMU in Washington followed suit in 2020. And just this week, workers at WFAE in North Carolina filed a petition to unionize.