KPTV 12 news staff decertifies from AFTRA

Led by Portland television news anchor Kurt Ludlow, reporters at KPTV Channel 12 voted 12 to 6 April 24 to decertify their union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists-Screen Actors Guild (AFTRA-SAG). Fox-owned KPTV, a UPN affiliate, along with KPDX Fox 49, are being swapped for two stations in Florida owned by Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corporation. Assuming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval, ownership will change hands June 15, the same day the union contract was due to expire.

Wendi Weiss, executive director of AFTRA-SAG Portland, said employees of KPTV were worried about whether they'll have their jobs after the switchover.

In April, Ludlow told co-workers in an e-mail that they'd been promised that any laid-off employees would get a more generous severance package if they first voted out the union.

Fox Corporation denied any such promises had been made; to do so would be a violation of U.S. labor law. The union has decided not to pursue an unfair labor practice charge.

Contacted for this story, Ludlow referred questions to management,but KPTV spokes-person Bruno Rudolph said it was the station's policy not to comment on "personnel matters."

Ludlow had earlier petitioned to make KPTV an "open shop," meaning union dues would be voluntary. That proposal lost by one vote in January.

Then on March 18, four days before the two companies announced the swap, Ludlow filed the decertification petition. Fox had owned KPTV only since July 2001, when the FCC approved the media giant's acquisition of the 10-station Chris-Craft Industries.

KPTV's soon-to-be new owner, Meredith Corporation, owns several magazines, including Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal, and 12 television stations, including a station in Bend, Oregon.

The decertification of KPTV leaves KGW Channel 8 the only television station where workers are represented by AFTRA-SAG. Several classifications of workers at KPTV and KGW continue to be represented by Portland-based Electrical Workers Local 48.

AFTRA-SAG Portland represents 480 employees and freelancers at KGW-TV and six local radio stations, plus 470 actors. Weiss, a Portland lawyer, was hired in February to replace Stuart Pembel-Belkin, who resigned in October.

May 17, 2002 issue

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