After what is said to have been 100 bargaining sessions, the union representing employees at Spanish Broadcasting System’s Los Angeles stations appears no closer to a new contract. A hearing before the National Labor Relations Board this month will address one of the three complaints brought by the union in the three-year old fight between SBS and its employees.
The National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) has issued a trio of complaints against SBS. The company has settled two of the three, including charges that it fired eight employees for working to organize the union representation at the cluster. SBS paid a half million dollars to the workers as part of a settlement.
But one complaint remains. It contends SBS stopped paying personalities for their endorsement work, which the NRLB has alleged is part of a larger effort “interfering, restraining, and coercing employees” from unionizing. Unless a settlement is reached in the coming weeks, the NRLB is scheduled to begin a hearing on the charge on March 30.
“SBS is one of the worst lawbreakers I have ever seen in over 20 years as a labor lawyer,” said union attorney Julie Gutman Dickinson in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Not surprisingly, the company sees things much differently. SBS has denied the allegations in the complaint, and in a statement to the newspaper the company said it looked forward to this month’s hearing to prove its case.
Tensions between SBS and the union has been building for years. Since SBS employees at regional Mexican “La Raza” KLAX-FM and Spanish CHR “Mega 96.3” KXOL-FM voted to join the union in 2016, SAG-AFTRA claims the company has engaged in over 100 separate unfair labor practices, including wrongful termination and refusing to bargain in good faith. SAG-AFTRA National Director of News and Broadcast Anna Calderón told the Los Angeles Times that securing a contract for workers at the SBS stations has become a “high priority” for the union. It has tried such moves as placing a billboard outside SBS during last year’s annual shareholder meeting, calling on company executives and investors to give workers “just salaries.”
Rather than paying more, SAG-AFTRA says the company has proposed cutting salaries. The union contends that SBS staffers are already not receiving a living wage. Felix Castillo, otherwise known as afternoon drive personality DJ Mr. Boro on KLAX, told the L.A. times that some of his coworkers are commuting as much as 50 to 70 miles a day because what they earn doesn’t allow them to live in the market where they work. “There is a myth that gets perpetuated inside of the Spanish-language market: that this market is still up-and-coming – that’s not true,” he said. “Now workers want their share of the profits flowing to companies like SBS.”
SAG-AFTRA is also trying to reach a contract agreement with SBS covering ten air talent at La Ley 107.9” WLEY-FM Chicago, who voted to form a union chapter in September 2018.