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Seattle City Council Committee Passes Resolution In Support Of Unionized Workers At KING 5

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Contentious labor negotiations at the television station KING 5 have now gotten the attention of Seattle’s City Council. A council committee has passed a resolution supporting the unionized news staff who say their jobs are threatened by the corporate owner’s business model. 

KING 5 has a long history as one of the pioneers of broadcast television and has won numerous national awards, but now unions representing photographers and engineers at KING 5 say the station’s owner, a company called Tegna, is pushing a contract that puts their jobs at risk.

Dave Twedell is business representative for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 600, which represents KING 5 photographers. He said Tegna wants to be able to pay citizen journalists $50 to submit video instead of the trained union members it has on staff.

"We can’t afford to have amateurs getting in the middle of car chases or having amateurs try to cover earthquakes or tell us what’s safe," Twedell said. "We’ve got to preserve the tradition of greatness that was KING 5."

A spokesman for Tegna didn’t respond to requests for comment. Tegna used to be called Gannett until it spun off its publishing business that includes USA Today.

Seattle City Council Members Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold sponsored the resolution in support of KING 5’s news staff and calling on the company to bargain in good faith. The measure passed out of committee and will now head to the full council for a vote. 

Sawant said it’s important for city government to support workplaces that have collective bargaining agreements.

“Statistics have shown throughout decades that when you have a larger degree of unionization, even the workers that are not unionized, if there’s a union culture in your city, it actually prevents wages from bottoming out," she said.

The resolution also calls on all local Seattle broadcasters to disclose whether they’re taking part in a federal auction of public airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission has begun the process of auctioning off some broadcast spectrum to cell phone companies. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.