Electricians union calls strike at WTTW

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the station wants changes that will erode union jurisdiction and job protections.

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has called its first strike at public television station WTTW.

Members of the electricians union called a strike Wednesday night at WTTW-Channel 11, saying the public television station has proposed harmful changes in work jurisdictions and job protections.

Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers began striking at 6 p.m. Wednesday after nearly a year of collective bargaining. IBEW said it represents nearly two dozen employees who work as technicians, graphic artists and floor crew members at Window to the World Communications, owner of WTTW.

The workers’ responsibilities include the evening news program Chicago Tonight. Wednesday, the show shifted to a “best of” format rather than provide live news.

“It saddens me that the employer has forced us to take such a drastic action, but our hard-working union members are not willing to bargain away their futures at any cost,” said Local 1220 Business Manager John Rizzo. “The sisters and brothers at Channel 11 deserve a fair and respectable contract that protects their livelihoods and their families. That’s worth fighting for. It’s about jobs.”

The local said this is the first strike it has called against WTTW, where it has had labor deals since the mid-1950s.

The station provided a statement that said, in part: “We work in a rapidly changing industry. Bringing our IBEW contract up to date – to ensure that it is comparable with other media contracts across the city and country – is imperative, will allow us to use current and future technology and will protect jobs. 

“The terms we have proposed in our latest contract offer, which include a highly competitive wage and benefits package, will serve IBEW members, WTTW as an organization, and ultimately the people in our community. Through this important process, we believe we can come together to reach agreement.”

The local said it has filed grievances over the station’s use of nonunion members to do union work. It said that in 4 cases that advanced to arbitration, the union prevailed.

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