Stephens Media Group

The ongoing battle between Stephens Media Group (SMG) and NABET-CWA (National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians –Communications Workers of America) now has SMG filing an unfair labor practice charge against the union.

“The previous, collective bargaining agreements expired almost two years ago. Yet, the union refuses to bargain in good faith to reach new agreements,” owner David Stephens said in a news release. “We had no choice but to file these charges.”

In January, an administrative law judge ruled that SMG must rehire employees that were previously let go at the company’s Watertown and Massena radio stations.

NABET General Counsel Judi Chartier told WWNY-TV that she has yet to see the charge but has read the press release. Chartier said the union will conduct negotiations once the employees fired in 2018 are rehired.

In the January ruling, National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge Charles Muhl said SMG must rehire an employee who was let go at oldies/news/talk WMSA Massena (1340) and reinstate, with back pay, full-time employees that were laid off at the Watertown properties. The judge also said Stephens must bargain with the union and “not interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees” who are exercising their union rights. Stephens Media Group owns country “Froggy 97” WFRY-FM, classic hits “Z93” WCIZ-FM, talk WNTY (790) and “Fox Sports 1410” WNER in the northern New York State market of Watertown.

The affected employees were identified as Dianne Chase, Frank Laverghetta and Michael Stoffel. Stoffel was re-hired in a supervisory role after being laid off, but continued to handle responsibilities he had been doing as a union member, which the judge also said is not allowed.

The Watertown employees were laid off as the company was negotiating a new contract with the union. The union claims that Stephens was planning to discontinue live talent in most dayparts and planned to voice-track the shifts instead.

Chase is also President of NABET Local 51024.

“To remain competitive, SMG needs the ability to program the stations as it sees fit. Talent, and not seniority, should determine who gets to be heard on the air,” the company said in the release. “The union refuses to negotiate this point with SMG. Their failure to negotiate is a violation of the law and proof we are at impasse.”