Nexstar Tries to Bust the Union in Fresno

An interesting vote is about to go down in California and it has nothing to do with an election.

Nexstar is doing their best to bust the IBEW and SAG-AFTRA union at KSEE/KGPE in Fresno (recently purchased duopoly).

The vote takes place on July 11 and is whether to keep IBEW. The SAG-AFTRA vote has been delayed. Both unions have been in negotiations with management since Nexstar took over in February 2013. The unions say that Nexstar has been using delaying tactics during negotiations and finally filed an RM petition (representation petition) with NLRB.

Background: KSEE reporters/anchors/producers/directors represented by SAG-AFTRA; photographers, editors, engineers, production assistants represented by IBEW; KGPE was an AFTRA station until the mid 1990s, but fell apart after contract negotiations reached impasse. Nexstar has moved KGPE into the KSEE building. Reporters file reports on both stations. Union members tell FTVLive that since February 2013 about 30 employees left on their own and another 18 were eliminated, including the AFTRA shop steward. The only photographers who were laid off were non-union from KGPE.

Station GM Matt Rosenfeld has been sending out a number of memos to the staff, trying to tell them why they don't need a union. They emails read like a political campaign against some proposition.

It will be interesting if the union members trust the GM, or want to keep their union. The vote happens July 11th: 

Here are the 4 emails he sent out so far:

Email #1 Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I wanted to give you an update on the RM petition the station filed a few weeks ago with the National Labor Relations Board.

After review,  the NLRB has scheduled a secret ballot on July 11, 2014 at our location in our break room.  Voting will take place between the hours of 9:00-10:00am and 2:00-3:00pm.

The vote will determine whether those in the current IBEW unit wish to be represented by the IBEW or not.

As soon as the station filed this petition the inevitable happened as the IBEW began to 'campaign,’ attempting to drum up support by using familiar scare tactics in an effort to persuade potential voters into believing they need union representation.  They even put out a flyer setting forth all sorts of half-truths, items taken out of context, and flat-out misrepresentations in support of this 'knee-jerk" reaction to the petition. They even went to great lengths to mischaracterize union negotiations. These negotiations, quite frankly, have been very frustrating from the station's standpoint as the IBEW has come to the table ill-prepared to negotiate and without the right mind-set to conclude these discussions in a productive way

Over the next 3 weeks there will be plenty of time to fully air all of the reasons why you don't need representation by the IBEW to work here at our newly consolidated operation.

At this juncture, we would simply state that the most compelling reason for coming to this conclusion is that we believe that you have come to expect good leadership, progressive growth and a work environment that is collaborative, respectful and enjoyable.  I would hope and expect that each of you believes that our station management treats each employee fairly and respectfully, and that we have created an environment that focuses on improving the performance of our stations, regardless of whether or not employees are represented by any union. The majority of our staff in Fresno is non-union, as are the vast majority of the employees at Nexstar station's across the country.

The upcoming vote is a rare opportunity to give each of you eligible to vote a real choice as to whether you want the IBEW's representation going forward.

I'm sure you will have may questions about this important matter. We will do our best to answer those in the weeks leading up to July 11.

Matthew A. Rosenfeld
Vice President/General Manager

Email #2 Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014

Important Communication To the Eligible voters in the July 11, 2014 SECRET BALLOT ELECTION:

As you have been previously notified, the National Labor Relations Board will be conducting a SECRET BALLOT ELECTION on July 11, here at our station, among employees in the following unit:

All full-time and regular part-time maintenance technicians, media coordinators, operating technicians, photographers, editors, production assistants, and multi-media journalists employed at the Employer’s McKinley Media Center in East Fresno, California; excluding employees currently represented by Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, SF Local, office clerical employees, salespersons, on-air talent, guards, and supervisors as defined in the National Labor Relations Act.

If you receive this email it is because your name has been placed on an eligible voters list that has been furnished to the NLRB today. A copy of this list which also contains your last known address has also been furnished to the IBEW. The furnishing of this list of names and addresses  to the NLRB is legally required.

The decision you will be making in this election is an important one. And it is entirely yours to make in the secrecy of the balloting place. You can vote AGAINST the IBEW if you are currently a member of the union.  You can vote against the IBEW if you have been a member of the union for 3 weeks or many years. Indeed this SECRET BALLOT ELECTION may be your last and only chance to avoid the requirement that you must pay union dues to work at the station.

In the next two weeks leading up to this important choice we will give you more information about this election, but we wanted to let everyone know that they are free to vote their conscience regardless of whether they are currently in the union or not.

If you have any questions about this or anything else about this election, please feel free to let me know.

Matthew A. Rosenfeld
Vice President/General Manager

Email #3 Sent: Monday, June 30, 2014

Unions Are Big Businesses
Which Want Your Hard-Earned Money

1.         First, and most importantly, a union is a business like any other business which you and I might be familiar with.  Like a store, a factory, or any other money-making enterprise, a union's main goal is to make money and grow.  And you can bet that’s true of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (“IBEW”) and its Hollywood-based Local 45.
2.         Also, like any other big business, the IBEW employs people who are paid salaries, expenses, and benefits in order to carry out its goals. Many of these business agents and international representatives make salaries exceeding $150,000.00 per year!
3.         However, unlike other businesses, the union does not make money through selling a product or service.  Instead, it makes its money by collecting dues, assessments, fees and fines from its members, and generally has no other source of income.  That means the union can only make money by collecting money from its members.
4.         In order to stay in business, the union must have enough dues-paying members to pay for all of its business expenses.
5.         No business is complete without rules and regulations to run its day-to-day activities; the union has a detailed constitution and bylaws which control the actions of its members.  In fact, with the IBEW, there actually are two sets of constitutions and bylaws:  One for the big International Union in Washington, D.C., and the other for Local No. 45.  That’s the Union that’s trying to stay in here to represent our employees.
6.         The union is required to file financial and organizational reports with the federal government.  As we will show you in the days ahead, these financial and organizational reports are very detailed, and allow us to examine the true inside operations of the union.

The Union Will Cost You

The most important connection between the Union and you is, of course, the money connection.  The Union relies heavily on the income from its mandatory membership dues to keep operating its large business enterprise.

As you may have already heard or experienced yourself, the Union makes each member pay dues every month just for the "privilege" of calling yourself a Local 45 member --- and, of course, for the privilege of having to follow its many rules and regulations.  In fact, the IBEW has always insisted that its contract with KSEE contain a “UNION SHOP” clause under which every employee in the bargaining unit -- whether or not they supported or voted for the union -- must pay union dues in order to keep their job with the employer.

Then, the next thing they have insisted upon is a “DUES CHECK OFF” provision under which the company serves as a collection agent for the union by automatically deducting the required union dues from the employee’s paychecks and sending them directly to the union.

The dues charged by IBEW Local 45 are 1.25% of gross wages per month and a fixed amount of $18 per month.  As a result of this percentage alone, if you make $100, they take $1.25.  The more you make, the more they take.  Because of their entitlement to receive 1.25% of your pay, if you make $30,000.00 at Nexstar, the IBEW’s ‘cut’ is $375.00. Plus an additional $18 per month, for a total of $591.00 per year!!!!!!!  That’s a lot of money -- money you could put in a bank for yourself and your family.  And you pay this money -- not Nexstar!  This money comes out of your paycheck!  Last year, the union took millions of dollars in money away from employees.

Of course, you would have to pay more in union dues every time the dues were increased.  And nothing guarantees that the dues will not increase.  The union dues used to be less, and, in fact were a flat-rate per month.  Some time ago, they raised them, and converted them to the percentage formula they are now 1.25%.

In addition to monthly dues, employees may have to pay a lot of other money to Local 45 and the International Brotherhood.  The Union can charge initiation fees, assessments, reinstatement fees, withdrawal fees, and other kinds of charges.      The Union also can also fine you for such things as violating the rules set forth in the International and Local Constitutions.

Remember, all of the money taken in by the Union will come out of your pockets.  Who pays this money?  You do!  Nexstar will not and cannot pay money to the Union -- it’s against the law.  You pay this money out of your own pocket.
Think about it-----don’t you prefer to decide how to spend your own hard earned money?

The SECRET BALLOT ELECTION to be held here on July 11, 2014 is your golden opportunity to escape mandatory payment of union dues, once and for all.   Voting     NO to continued union representation   is the only way you can be sure that you will not be forced to   pay dues to the IBEW just to work at Nexstar in Fresno.

Remember even if you have already joined the IBEW or have been a member for years, you can VOTE NO on July 11, 2014 and end this power they have to force you to pay your hard-earned money to them just to work here.

Matthew A. Rosenfeld
Vice President/General Manager

Email #4 Sent: Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thank You.  I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to ask many good questions so far this week about the upcoming union vote.  It’s clear to me there are many misunderstandings.  I’m happy to take the time to answer any questions you have so feel free to see me or any of the other department heads. As you know, I’ve always had an open door policy and I completely understand there is a lot of information coming at you.

We will answer all your questions about the election in the most honest and direct manner. As you know, I’m a straight shooter and I’ll give you the facts. There are also things that the National Labor Relations Board does not allow the Company to say.  In this process, the IBEW is allowed to make you all sorts of  promises. But, the Company is not allowed to make you any promises during this election campaign. Strange as that may seem that's the by law.  For those of you who asked questions I told you I can’t answer, that is why.

I will be holding informational meetings beginning tomorrow and again next week to make sure you get your questions answered.  Times and locations will be emailed to you soon.

We’ve Come a Long Way.  One of the themes that came out this week’s conversations was how far we’ve come in the past year.  Nexstar’s investments, coupled with your hard work and dedication have both stations looking great.  We appreciate all of your hard work.

Last year, we moved 20 part-time employees to full-time with benefits, plus we’ve made many hires throughout the building.  We still have some hires to make.  Our operation is clearly growing and we need every employee on our staff.

Your Opportunity.  With next Friday’s election, you have the opportunity the eliminate an expensive middleman, the IBEW. Working together as a team we can do much to continue to improve our operation and advance your careers. The IBEW adds nothing to that process and in my opinion, gets in the way of such progress.

Not only that -----the IBEW's involvement costs you money.  The IBEW requires the company to take dues right out of your paycheck and the average IBEW member in our building pays over $750 per year after taxes; that’s more than $1,200 gross pay that disappears from every one of your paychecks.

Be Informed, Don’t be Fooled.  From what we heard this week, I’d urge you to get a second opinion on the facts as you think you know them.  Several times we heard an employee misstate what they thought was a fact.  We were able to open the IBEW/KSEE contract, now expired, and prove what the IBEW told them was not factual I don’t mean to be negative, but it makes me angry that anyone would be misled.  This is too important a decision to you, and to us, to base your decision on mistruths.  Our managers are very knowledgeable about the contract and we can point you to the facts so you can read for yourselves.

Here is some detail on a few of the topics we heard that were misstated.

You Pay the Dues.  Some of the people we spoke with thought Nexstar paid your union dues.  Absolutely not.  They come out of your paychecks.  The average person in Fresno pays about $750 per year after taxes.  That’s over $1,200 in gross pay on average we are required to deduct from your paycheck. If the union was voted out this would be your money to keep.
Expired Contract.  The IBEW contract expired earlier this year.  We offered several times to extend the contract, but the IBEW did not want to extend it.
New Contract Progress.  For almost a year and a half, we have been working to negotiate a new contract.  It’s been difficult.  As one recent example, we had agreed to meet on June 4th and 5th.  Our corporate guys flew from New York and Dallas to be here, but the IBEW cancelled at 7pm the night before.  They were in Bakersfield negotiating the KGET IBEW contract with our company the entire day before so it is frustrating why they wouldn’t make the short drive and honor the appointment they set months earlier.

I know you are getting hit with a lot of information, but it is more important than ever that you have accurate facts.  A schedule of Informational meetings will be posted later today.

I’ll continue to update you with topics of concern from other employees with the goal the info might help you see clearly that there is little reason to have union representation and continue to pay dues.

I am always available to discuss these important issues.

Matthew A. Rosenfeld
Vice President/General Manager