I was surprised to see a half page ad in today’s Hartford Courant from the air staff (members of AFTRA) at WFSB in Hartford. Their union negotiations have been contentious, to say the least, over the past few years.
Some long time employees have worked for Travelers Insurance, Post-Newsweek and now Meredith as station owners.
Travelers was local, which always makes a difference. And, at that time, the money was flowing in like water, to a station that had cost them a pittance to put on-the-air.
Post-Newsweek was a print oriented company and, though many people felt they weren’t as employee friendly as Travelers, the station continued to be a good place to work.
Meredith is also print oriented but it’s a different situation from Post-Newsweek. I am not involved in their labor negotiations, but I have heard that Meredith declared an impasse and implemented their last/best offer. There’s not much the union members can do short of walking out.
Today’s ad said the anchors and reporters would all wear black as a sign of solidarity – and they did. The ad also listed some of their grievances. A friend called me from their newsroom to say the tension was high and management had spoken to some on-the-air people.
Meredith is going to have to make a decision on how they value the folks on-the-air. Considering the preponderance of research that says, to a large extent, people watch TV stations because of whose on the air, I will be interested to see how far this goes.
This isn’t a grade school fight. Would Meredith really cut off their nose to spite their face? Will the union cripple the station by walking out and risking their own jobs at the same time? Are there more job actions to come or will cooler heads prevail? How can it benefit any company to be at war with their own staff?
I work for the competition and I want to win, but not by default against a crippled opponent. This time, the news will be from the newsroom.
(The Hartford Courant featured an article about the situation, which is attached below)