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July 2024

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IBEW Asks Feds to Honor Pledge, Save Jobs
at Beloved Alberta Radio Station

CKUA has achieved iconic status in Alberta during nearly a century on the air. Founded in 1927, the Edmonton-based radio station has supplied listeners across the province with music and information difficult to find elsewhere.

Now, IBEW members employed there are asking for help as the station navigates through one of the worst financial crises in its history.

CKUA management announced in April that it needed to raise $3 million by Sept. 30 or the station would be closed. A combination of the federal government not following through on a $5 million pledge and a massive increase in vacancies in the downtown Edmonton office building owned by the station — and home to its main studio — following the COVID-19 pandemic led to the emergency.

An initial 10-day fundraising campaign in May raised $1.8 million. That was an important first step, but plenty of work remains to meet the goal and put CKUA on solid financial footing going forward, said Glen Kautz, western business representative for Ottawa, Ontario, Local 2228, which has jurisdiction across the country.

"Because it is publicly funded, there's a pretty hard cap on how much advertising they can run," Kautz said.

CKUA is not affiliated with the CBC, the Crown corporation that serves as Canada's national public broadcaster.

The IBEW has represented all non-management employees of the station since 1969, first under the auspices of Edmonton Local 348, until it was amalgamated into Local 2228 in 2011. The station has about 45 IBEW members.

Local 2228 is based in Ottawa but represents technologists and electricians who install and maintain equipment for weather and radio frequency in federal agencies throughout the country. It also represents broadcast employees at CKUA and a television station in Alberta.

Retired Local 348 Business Manager Mike Semeniuk, who is volunteering to help the station through its crisis, said its independence is what has endeared it to Albertans for decades.

Producers, directors and announcers do not have to follow the mandates of corporate bosses, allowing them to showcase musical acts and artists that might get overlooked by corporate media. The station plays everything from country to punk rock to classical music and provides a forum for other artists, such as writers and painters.

"That's the heart of the station," Semeniuk said. "That is why it's so close to the community. It is not corporate."

CKUA's record and music collection is considered one of the largest in Canada. Robert Goulet, who went on to win Grammy and Tony awards, worked as an announcer at the station in the 1950s. Other legendary Canadian performers who had their work highlighted by the station early in their careers include Tommy Banks, Bruce Cockburn and k.d. lang.

The station was originally owned by the University of Alberta and later run by the provincial government. It became fully independent and donor-supported in 1997.

"All of those people who stepped up in May did so because the station is important to them," said CKUA Technical Producer Mark Rodgers, who hosts a Saturday night music program and serves as Local 2228's steward at the station. "The public has shown up. Now we're pressing the federal government to do their part."

Rodgers and others involved in the fight note that the provincial and local governments each provided $5 million after the station built the Alberta Hotel Building in 2012 because the project preserved most of the original structure in downtown Edmonton.

The federal government pledged the same amount but has provided only about $500,000 thus far, Kautz said. That's why the IBEW in Canada is asking for friends and allies to contact their representatives in Parliament and urge them to follow through on the pledge of additional funding, which would ease many of CKUA's financial issues and preserve the jobs of IBEW members.

"The impressive response from listeners emphasizes the value of independent broadcasting and underscores the essential role IBEW broadcasting members play in enriching our larger community," First District International Vice President Russ Shewchuk said. "We urge the federal government to honour their initial financial commitment to CKUA and protect this historic station's jobs and cultural contributions."

Station management and Local 2228 leaders noted that the federal government has provided funding to private media companies, such as Rogers Communications and Bell Media, and to the CBC to help them through difficult times.

They hope it does the same for a community treasure like CKUA, which has seen about 10% audience growth in the last five years, management told the Calgary Herald.

"People do not work there to get rich," Local 2228 Business Manager Paul Cameron said. "They are there because it means something to them. They're into music, arts and culture."

People can donate and listen to the station at

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The IBEW in Canada calls on Parliament to follow through on a pledge to support beloved radio station CKUA and help save about 45 members' jobs.


Ottawa Local 2228 member Tony King on the air at Edmonton radio station CKUA.