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December 2018

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Political Leaders Urge WUSA-9 to Bargain in Good Faith

As Washington, D.C., Local 1200 enters its second year battling for a fair contract at CBS-affiliate WUSA-9, members of Congress and other area political leaders are urging the station's corporate owner Tegna Inc. to show its workers the respect they deserve at the bargaining table.

"I am astonished that Tegna reported $1.9 billion in revenue in 2017 and will reap over $35 million from the federal tax cut, but is unable to negotiate justly and fairly for employees that live in a region with one of the highest costs of living in the world," At-Large D.C. Councilwoman Anita Bonds said in an October letter to station manager Richard Dyer.

Bonds said she's deeply troubled that Tegna "wishes to diminish the agreement with lowered salaries, reduced benefits, and less employment security" and that its failure to bargain is "leaving dedicated and talented employees in an abyss."

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland sent a similar letter in September, asking the company "to negotiate in good faith to come to a resolution that includes a fair wage and benefit package."

Washington, D.C., Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton wrote, "There is no doubt that the workers represented by the IBEW have contributed to [WUSA-9's] success. I look forward to hearing of a speedy, positive agreement."

Despite the local's compromises and concessions over the course of 16 bargaining sessions in the first year of talks, including five with a mediator, Tegna, formerly Gannett, has refused to discuss any of the union's proposals. "Not interested" has been chief negotiator Tim Fair's stock response.

"Everything we've proposed, it's been 'no, no, no,'" Local 1200 Business Manager Ken Brown said.

Putting Tegna's foot-dragging in perspective, Brown said that since talks began in October 2017, he's negotiated five other contracts — two Baltimore local stations plus CBS News, Fox Sports and MoodMedia — wrapping up each one in a matter of days.

The WUSA-9 unit, which includes nearly 40 technicians, camera operators, editors and other employees, has been working under an expired contract since November 2017.

Other IBEW locals with members at Tegna stations around the country have fought, or are fighting now, against concessionary demands affecting wages, shifts, vacation schedules, overtime, layoffs, severance, training and more. At KSDK in St. Louis, Local 4 has erected a billboard calling for people to boycott the station.

Local 1200 filed an unfair labor practice charge in August, detailing the union's efforts and Tegna's bad faith. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating it, along with a shop steward's charges of management harassment over the past year.

Some minor progress earlier this fall suggested that management was concerned about the NLRB probes, but overall Tegna is still defiant, Fourth District International Representative Gina Cooper said.

"I think the board charges are having an effect, but we're not seeing anything drastic," she said, explaining that the company's only real movement was dropping its demand to pay overtime after 40 hours in a week instead of eight hours in a day.

"They really have held tight to trying to dismantle a lot of pieces here," Cooper said.

One of the union's key issues is the company's merit-pay system. Or, as Brown puts it, "a system of 'who do you like best?' There's not really any merit to it."

With Tegna flatly refusing to switch to a wage scale, the bargaining team has proposed ways to make the system more fair, so far to no avail.

"When you look at it, in this day and age, we're trying to save them from themselves," Brown said. "Because some of the workers who aren't getting the raises they deserve are women and minorities."

As some of the letters from public officials suggest, the company's enormous tax savings mean it has no excuse for refusing to raise workers' pay.

"We are aware that the new tax law provided a substantial windfall to Tegna," Van Hollen and Cardin wrote, citing the $35 million the company told the SEC it expects to save in 2018 taxes alone.

"Advocates of the new tax law claimed that its corporate tax cuts would trickle down to workers in the form of pay raises," they said. "It is our understanding, however, that WUSA-TV and the IBEW have not reached terms on multiple bargaining points, including wages."


Washington, D.C. Local 1200 members who work at Tegna station WUSA-9.

San Jose Local Gives Flyers an Energizing Eyefull

Most roof-top solar systems aren't much to look at. They're hidden from view. Maybe the corner of a panel or two sticks out and can be seen from the street.

So, if you want to make a big splash announcing a green energy project, you can throw in a little wind turbine, or a big green sign, but there is only so much you can do with photovoltaic.

That is, unless your local hall is underneath the arrival path of a major international airport like San Jose, Calif., Local 332. Then you spell out IBEW 20-feet tall on the roof giving an eyeful of pride to everyone sitting on the left side of a plane landing at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

And then you light it from below so they see it at night.

The project, completed entirely using Local 332 members, is more than just a show pony. It was part of a complete retrofit and update of the local hall finished early this year, replacing the original solar system the local installed nearly 30 years ago. Every load in the building was turned electric, and batteries were dropped in core systems that will run no matter what. Every fixture was replaced with the latest LED lighting. It is a net-zero building and next year's energy bill will drop from $140,000 to nothing.

The whole project was so impressive it was nominated for Solar Builder magazine's Project of the Year, which will be announced in the end-of-year issue. Local 332 already received an Editor's Choice Award from the magazine for "Coolest Design."


San Jose, Calif., Local 332 didn't just transform their local into a net-zero building, they turned the solar panels on the roof into an advertisement for the Brotherhood that can be seen from the sky.