- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

For the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America Local 31, the past month framed a story of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Ugly describes the situation at National Public Radio, where about 80 local union members working without a contract since September accused the broadcaster of giving their work to another AFL-CIO member, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA).

AFTRA filed a grievance after learning it had been given jobs designated for Local 31 members. An arbitrator this week ruled in favor of the unions and gave NPR 60 days to stop the practice.

NPR contends it implemented some aspects of a final contract offer to NABET after an impasse had been declared and simply overreached in rolling out different responsibilities and procedures based on its new AFTRA contract, said NPR spokeswoman Andi Sporkin.

NABET is writing letters to NPR’s member stations asking for their help in fixing the ongoing labor problem where its members are being phased out of their jobs, said Mark Peach, Local 31’s president.

NABET rejected NPR’s final offer in January and the two sides have not negotiated since, he said, adding that the unions will ramp up their ad campaign and continue litigating.

“We made [NABET] an outstanding offer and hope they re-vote and ratify it,” Ms. Sporkin said.

Bad but getting better was the situation at the Public Broadcasting Service in which Local 31 last month agreed to a new contract after backing off its threat to ask hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide to stop donating to their local PBS stations.

A spokeswoman said PBS was pleased the union accepted its “last, best contract offer.”

But the contract is up for renewal next summer and the union intends to bring some of its prior complaints, including fair buyout packages for future layoffs done through its master seniority list, Mr. Peach said.

Finally, the prospects appear good at WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and its cable sister, NewsChannel 8, where about 70 union workers have been working without a contract since last January. Mr. Peach said progress has been made in recent months.

The union wants wage parity and maintenance of the arbitration process by a neutral third party and has embarked on a high-profile mobilization campaign, including bus ads, a Web site urging viewers to turn off the Allbritton-owned stations and dispensing fliers outside WJLA advertiser locations.

Mr. Peach said he was “hopeful” a deal could be reached when the two sides return to the negotiating table later this month.

A WJLA spokesman said the station will be pleased to get back to the bargaining table.

DC101 answers questions

Following last week’s item about Elliot Segal, host of the “Elliot in the Morning” show on DC101 being pulled off the air briefly as he prepared to blast fellow Clear Channel Radio talker Tony Kornheiser, we heard from the company’s top local executive.

“I don’t place rules on any of my talent like that,” said Dave Pugh, Clear Channel’s regional vice president, when asked whether Mr. Segal was precluded from talking about Mr. Kornheiser, whose show airs on WTEM-AM (SportsTalk 980).

Mr. Segal said yesterday he was told that the airtime gap occurred because of a rule left by the former management team.

“I never knew it existed,” he said. “I learned about it like everybody else.”

Mr. Segal said he is free to talk about any other Clear Channel talent and vice versa.

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