Finally, A New Contract for IBEW 1837 Members at WGME-TV

October 21, 2011 - IBEW 1837 members at WGME-TV, channel 13 in Portland have approved a new, 3-year contract after a long and contentious struggle with parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. of Maryland. That struggle led to a national AFL-CIO boycott and the decision by Maine’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates not to advertise on the station during the 2010 primary campaign.

IBEW 1837 and Sinclair management began bargaining early in 2009 and negotiated for more than a year without reaching an agreement. In February of 2010, Sinclair declared that negotiations were “deadlocked” and began unilaterally implementing parts of its last contract offer. The company cut pay by as much as 10 percent for most of the 40 broadcast professionals who work behind the scenes at the station and are represented by IBEW Local Union 1837.

The workers protested and contacted community and political allies for support. When IBEW and the Maine AFL-CIO asked all Democratic, Republican and Independent gubernatorial candidates to refrain from advertising on WGME-TV as a show of solidarity, the Democratic candidates agreed, prompting the station to lash out at the candidates in an extraordinary editorial broadcast.

Both sides returned to the bargaining table on June 6 of this year as the station announced intentions to implement additional provisions from their last contract offer and also began preparations for the installation of new HD television equipment.

The approved contract agreement includes a 3% ratification pay increase for top scale employees and smaller increases in the second and third years of the contract. Newer employees would also receive increases in their pay scales. The new pact gives the station greater flexibility in assigning work outside of the primary job classifications for members but also offers job security language and enhanced severance pay for workers impacted by the installation of new automated equipment.

“It was a disappointing, concessionary contract considering how successful Sinclair Broadcasting and WGME have been,” said Dick Rogers, IBEW Local Union 1837 Business Manager. “Ultimately in these tough economic times, it was the best package our union negotiating team could get for our members.”

The union negotiating team included Dick Rogers, Chief Steward Jack Amrock, Steward Steve Schrader, IBEW 1837 Organizer Matt Beck and IBEW International Representative Ed Collins. Other members of the bargaining unit periodically participated in the talks and former IBEW 1837 Business Manager Cynthia Phinney played an active role until the change in the Local's leadership this summer.

IBEW Local Union 1837 is proud to represent most of the people who work behind the scenes at WGME-TV. They include the Operating Technicians, News Editors, Assignment Editors, Photographers, Engineers, Producers and Directors who create and produce a variety of news and public service programs, commercials and station promotional announcements that Maine television viewers enjoy and have come to rely on. These broadcasting professionals have been recognized for their outstanding achievements in television by a diverse group of local, state, and national organizations of journalists and broadcasters.