Business Manager Tony Sapienza
In Support of IBEW Workers at WGME 13, Democratic Candidates for Governor Refuse to Buy Campaign Ads on the TV Station
April 22, 2010 - All of the Democratic candidates in June’s gubernatorial primary have decided not to purchase political campaign advertising on WGME, channel 13 in Portland, to demonstrate their support for workers at the television station.
The refusal of Pat McGowan, Libby Mitchell, John Richardson, Steve Rowe, and Rosa Scarcelli to buy ads on the station is in response to a request from the union representing more than 40 workers at the station. That request came after WGME-TV and Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., of Maryland, unilaterally declared an impasse in contract talks, cut wages, and implemented parts of their last contract offer that forced concessions on the workers.
Broadcast stations look forward to the political season and the campaign ads that help boost their bottom lines. While the full financial impact of the candidates’ decision is difficult to estimate, it is likely to lead to the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue for the local CBS affiliate.
Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Mary Erin Casale expressed her approval of the move. “The Maine Democratic Party is proud to support the workers of IBEW Local 1837 and applauds all of our gubernatorial primary candidates in supporting this cause. We encourage all parties involved to reach a fair collective bargaining agreement as soon as possible,” Casale said.
“We’re grateful to the candidates and the party for their support,” said Cynthia Phinney, Business Manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union #1837. “We think it sends a strong message that Mainers don’t like the unfair treatment of workers at WGME. They think that Maine workers deserve good jobs to help support their families and communities.”
Many workers at WGME-TV, channel 13 in Portland had their pay cut as much as 10% as Sinclair Broadcast Group began implementing part of their last contract offer without the agreement of the workers and their Union. At the bargaining table, Sinclair and WGME 13 admitted that these cuts were not because of any financial crisis, but simply because they felt that their workers were overpaid. In fact, Sinclair’s stock price has been climbing steadily and has more than doubled in value since December. IBEW thinks that the Company is taking advantage of the current economic downturn to force unnecessary concessions on their workers.
Throughout negotiations, WGME and Sinclair have insisted on complete flexibility in assigning bargaining unit work to non-bargaining unit employees, supervisors and managers, as well as future discretion in granting raises and changes in employee benefits. It is clear that Sinclair’s intention is to destroy the coherence and viability of the union’s bargaining unit.
IBEW 1837 is proud to represent most of the people who work behind the scenes at WGME 13. 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.
A separate website has been set up at wgmeunfair.com and there is also a special Facebook page to support the workers.