National labor board hearing clears WESA, WYEP workers for union vote



Following a hearing held this morning to resolve disputes about the scope of a newly petitioned union, workers at the Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Company are now set to vote on its ratification.


Jessica Michael, a hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board, determined today that questions raised by PCBC management about who should qualify for the union would be settled after an election is held. Lawyers working for the company argued the membership services manager should be excluded from the group, and unsuccessfully pushed for a ruling on this before the election.


Workers at Pittsburgh's twinned public radio stations, WYEP and WESA, originally hoped management would voluntarily recognize their union petition when they first went public in late August shortly after, they claimed, leadership had been notified. However, in an internal email obtained by Pittsburgh City Paper, PCBC President Terry O'Reilly disputed claims in a SAG-AFTRA-issued press release that a petition signed by "a supermajority of eligible staff" was delivered to his desk on the morning of Aug. 30.


In his email, O'Reilly told radio staffers the national labor group did not submit any paperwork until the following day, and also indicated management would refer the petition to the labor board for formal mediation.


"We received nothing from anyone about this matter yesterday," O'Reilly wrote. "We did receive a packet of documents this morning from SAG-AFTRA, but we are awaiting an official set of documents that the National Labor Relations Board will be sending us; that will begin the process of allowing our employees to decide, through a confidential vote, whether they want to be represented by SAG-AFTRA or not."


Both parties have until Wed., Sept. 28 to follow up today's verdict with additional briefs. A date has not yet been set for a workers' election on the union.


According to the labor board's online docket, the broadcasting company has 26 workers seeking to unionize. These include:


"All full-time and regular part-time employees of Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corporation who create content for Broadcast and Digital Platforms including: Editors, Producers, Reporters, Hosts, Digital Editors, Digital Editor/Producer, Editor/Producer, Editor/Reporter, Senior Reporters, Traffic Manager/Production Assistant, Managing Editor, Creative Services Producer, and Member Services Manager."

"All other employees, employees of Allegheny Front, interns, guards, and supervisors as defined under the Act" are excluded from the union, according to the docket.


Kelly Mistick, a lawyer representing PCBC management, argued today the membership services manager does not belong in a bargaining committee with content creators.


"This position does not produce any content for radio broadcasts or publication on their digital platforms, and there is no overlap between the maintenance of these donor relationships and the creation of program content," Mistick said.


Michael determined not to weigh the claim before an election establishing the union is held.


"The evidence [supplied by management] is rejected and the issue of eligibility or inclusion of the Member Services Manager classification will be deferred to post-election procedures," Michael said.


Responding to a City Paper inquiry, PCBC spokesperson Michele Klingensmith wrote in an email, "We are pleased that the process is moving forward. We have no other comment at this time.”


Organizers directed inquiries to SAG-AFTRA's California-based public relations department, which did not respond by press time.


Statements made on a Twitter account representing the organizing workers criticized the company's efforts to exclude the membership services manager from the eligible organizers.

"Today, lawyers for @905wesa/@WYEP argued our union should be radio program content creators only, narrowing our unit," the tweet stated. "We ALL do much more than that!"