International President Lonnie R. Stephenson on Dec. 11 praised the Democratic National Committee’s decision to drop ABC-affiliate WMUR’s co-sponsorship of the upcoming New Hampshire Democratic primary debate in Manchester.

The move came in support of 22 of the station’s directors and production assistants organized in April by Boston Local 1228 whose efforts at a first contract have been stymied by the television station’s management.

“The right to collectively bargain has been a key part every Democratic Party platform for more than a half a century,” Stephenson said. “WMUR management’s refusal to meet in good faith with its employees stands in gross violation of that principle, so I’m pleased that DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and N.H. Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley have taken this step.”

Earlier in the week, the DNC warned the station that its sponsorship of the Dec. 19 debate could be in jeopardy following management’s months-long refusal to schedule negotiations over adding newly-organized employees to the company’s pension plan.

Jeff Bartlett, president and general manager of the Hearst-owned WMUR, has received letters in recent weeks from Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders urging him to settle his station’s dispute with its employees.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who is also running for president, urged his Democratic opponents to pull their campaign ads from WMUR’s air until the dispute was settled.

Local 1228 Business Manager Fletcher Fischer expressed gratitude for the support from the IBEW, DNC and the candidates themselves, but he said he wished the situation hadn’t needed to escalate as far as it has.

“We’re disappointed the station turned this into a national story when they could have simply moved the people into the Hearst pension to start with,” he said. “I’m sure they’re not going to be happy about this at all, but it could have been a lot easier on everyone involved if they’d simply treated their employees fairly.”

In a joint statement with N.H. Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz expressed regret that WMUR was unwilling to move ahead with scheduling negotiations with the production department employees.

“The right for workers to form and organize a union is a key principle of the Democratic Party, and is key to ensuring the economic safety of the American people by protecting their rights and benefits,” she wrote. “It is the right to organize that made it possible for the middle class in America to grow over the past century, and it is as important today as it has ever been to keep our economic growth as a nation moving forward.”

The Democratic debate will air nationally on ABC Dec. 19 featuring Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley, and the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper and St. Anselm College will remain co-sponsors. WMUR on-air talent will no longer participate, nor will the broadcast feature any of the station’s branding.

Photo credit: Local 1228.