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NPR Staffers Seeking Strike Authorization from SAG-AFTRA Board

Variety logo Variety 7/15/2017 Dave McNary
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With a contract expiration looming, nearly 300 National Public Radio staffers are seeking a strike authorization from the SAG-AFTRA national board.

The board meets Saturday in Los Angeles and New York via video-conference. The union, which reps about 400 NPR employees, has launched a “We Make NPR” web site with a countdown clock at the top and the headline, “The future of NPR is at stake.” Talks have been taking place in Washington D.C., with a federal mediator.

Bargaining took place Friday in Washington, D.C. The contract expires at the end of the day Friday. Rebecca Sullivan, a member of the NPR negotiating team, told Variety that the union would need at least two days to obtain a subsequent strike authorization from members should the SAG-AFTRA board approve.

The union is objecting to proposal to set up a separate pay scale for newcomers: “Equal pay for equal work. We do not want a two-tier pay system for employees who do the same job.”

The contract talks started on April 27. Statements on the new website have blasted management’s proposal.

“The management of NPR and their latest contract proposal seeks to tear apart fundamental workplace rights and benefits SAG-AFTRA members fought hard to establish,” the union said. “It threatens the core of NPR’s mission by devaluing the work of the people who have helped bring record audiences across NPR’s platforms, as is frequently touted by the same executives.”

Still, a NPR spokesperson has told Variety the talks have been positive.

“Conversations between NPR and SAG-AFTRA are ongoing and progress is being made at the table,” she said Friday.  “NPR continues to negotiate in good faith with the assistance of a federal mediator in the hopes of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement that meets the needs of employees and operations. Our goal is to make this organization economically sustainable for the long-term – and, importantly, enable NPR to invest more resources in expanding audiences, adding newsroom staff to meet that growth and support current staff, and innovating its multi-platform journalism.”

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