About 50 off-camera KOIN-TV employees are members of the National Association of Broadcast Employees & Technicians (NABET), a division of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). KOIN was one of 34 television stations bought last year by Rhode Island headquartered LIN Media. Now in union contract bargaining, the new owner is proposing to get rid of core provisions like “union security” and “dues checkoff,” as well as restrictions on doing the work of other classifications. LIN is also proposing that news crews be on-call on weekends for no extra pay.
“They want to break the union,” said Kathleen McCarthy, a member of the union bargaining team.
McCarthy was laid off in August after 19 years at the station — one of seven master control technicians at KOIN who were let go by LIN Media in line with an industry trend toward consolidation into hubs. The work they do monitoring the quality and accuracy of the on-air signal can now be done remotely, and KOIN isn’t the only Portland station whose signal is controlled elsewhere: KATU is controlled out of Seattle, and KPTV out of Phoenix, for example. In KOIN’s case the work went to non-union technicians at a LIN Media hub in Indianapolis.
Laid-off KOIN employees say they were given no opportunity to transfer. One who applied for an opening in Indianapolis was reportedly told he would not be “a good fit” with the culture there. Laid-off master control technician Mark Mack told the Labor Press that the move to hubs is sacrificing quality — more technical glitches, and fewer eyes on picture quality.
The previous NABET contract at KOIN expired two months ago, and union members say the company is dragging its feet in negotiations. Further negotiation sessions were scheduled Oct. 1 and 2, after this article went to press.
LIN is KOIN-TV’s fifth owner in two decades.