On Wednesday, October 2nd, workers at WHYY Philadelphia, an NPR member station, presented their management with a union recognition petition. More than eighty-percent of workers have signed their name in support of unionizing with SAG-AFTRA, well above the necessary threshold to take their efforts to the National Labor Relations Board.The effort has organized content creators at WHYY, including writers, editors, producers, on-air personalities.
Working conditions and the well-being of WHYY staff are some of the primary reasons for choosing to organize, according to public statements. “WHYY has become a bastion of Philadelphia journalism” their petition to management said, “yet over and over, talented employees leave due to untenable working conditions”.
According to public records, WHYY CEO Bill Marrazzo made over seven-hundred thousand dollars in 2018; far too much, some have argued, for an employee of a publicly-funded news outlet. Prominent WHYY personality Dave Davies has been seen in pictures supporting the unionization effort, and support has already poured in from journalists and labor activists across social media.
With union-busting efforts already underway at the station, listeners and supporters that help fund WHYY with much-needed private donations should consider where their money is going ahead of the next major membership drive. “We respect the rights of our employees to engage in this process and look forward to discussing with them whether the most beneficial way to do this is through SAG-AFTRA” WHYY commented to local labor writer Juliana Feliciano Reyes on Wednesday. Word from the newsroom is that lawyers have already been brought on location to help management push their anti-union campaign and intimidate workers.
WHYY follows a wave of recent newsroom organization efforts. Workers for the Miami Herald network of outlets announced on October 2nd their intentions to organize, and WBUR, NPR’s member station in Boston, went public to management in March. Numerous local and national media outlets have organized unions across the country in the last few years, from NPR member stations to outlets like VICE, HuffPost, MTV, Slate. The IWW’s Freelance Journalists Union has made impressive strides organizing freelancers, working to collectivize a sector of media workers long excluded from the organizing process. Their efforts have influenced the language of freelancer contracts at major media outlets, and their membership has grown rapidly since it began organizing (number of months) ago. The organization of WHYY leaves WAMU in Washington, DC as the only non-union NPR station in a major Northeast media market.