WATERTOWN — The owner of a few north country radio stations, whose 2018 decision to lay off a few radio hosts was recently deemed unlawful by a judge, has challenged the ruling by claiming the union representing those personalities and its current employees refused to engage in collective bargaining.
Stephens Media Group, which owns Classic Hits Z93 and Froggy 97 in Watertown and 1340 WMSA in Massena, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America.
The union’s Local 51024 chapter represents certain hosts employed at the north country stations, including the hosts who lost their jobs in 2018 such as Dianne D. Chase, president of the chapter, and David Romigh from 1340 WMSA and the former part-time hosts whose hours were cut.
The contract between the union and Stephens Media expired almost two years ago. Company owner David P. Stephens wrote in a statement that the union “refuses to bargain in good faith,” resulting in an impasse.
When Charles J. Muhl, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board, found that the union and company had not reached a valid impasse in their negotiations, he ruled that the decision to lay off three Watertown hosts, eliminate weekend shifts and reduce work hours for part-time hosts violated national labor laws. Stephens Media, however, disagrees with the judge’s finding regarding the impasse, resulting in the charge it filed against the national labor union. The company expects the labor board to rule on the charge within a few months.
“The union’s position is such that decisions should be based on DJ seniority alone. (Stephens Media) prefers a merit-based system whereby DJ’s are hired and air shifts are filled based on their talent, for both live and voice tracked shifts,” Mr. Stephens wrote. “Talent, and not seniority, should determine who gets to be heard on the air. The union refuses to negotiate this point with (Stephens Media). Their failure to negotiate is a violation of the law and proof we are at impasse.”
In addition to his findings regarding the Watertown hosts, Mr. Muhl found that the accusations of Mr. Romigh spreading rumors about his supervisor, which prompted the company to fire him, were unfounded. Therefore, the judge deemed his firing unlawful.
The judge had ordered Stephens Media to “restore all terms and conditions of employment” for the affected workers at the union’s request. The ruling also ordered the company to compensate affected workers for any financial losses and tax consequences that resulted from their employment termination or loss of hours.
The National Labor Relations Board will review the judge’s motion and decide whether to affirm it or request modifications.
“The union’s refusal impacts our ability to expand and create new, higher paying jobs for our employees,” Mr. Stephens wrote.