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State commission to hold hearing over unfair labor practice complaint against KUOW

KUOW 94.9 Public Radio

The state Public Employment Relations Commission is holding a hearing this week about an unfair labor practice complaint filed by union members at the public radio station KUOW.

Last February, KUOW producers, hosts, reporters and other staff joined the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA. The bargaining unit was certified by the Public Employment Relations Commission after more than 70 percent of the employees signed cards in favor of union representation. Reporters, hosts and other staff at KNKX also are members of SAG-AFTRA.

In April, KUOW announced a reorganization of its drive-time programs and that it was laying off seven employees. Station managers said the employees could apply for seven newly created jobs that also would be part of the union.

In its complaint, the union said the way the station handled the reorganization was unprecedented. 

“In previous reorganizations of the workplace, KUOW has not laid off workers,” the union said in the complaint. “Instead, it reassigned employees to any new positions created, as their skills and abilities permitted.”

The union also said one manager indicated the reorganization was a result of the union organizing campaign.

In a statement, KUOW General Manager Caryn Mathes said the reorganization had nothing to do with the union organizing, but instead was done to deliver more local news and better service.

“The drive time restructure was decided upon well before the petition to unionize occurred,” she wrote. “There is no connection between the two.”

All of the newly created, union-represented jobs pay at or above the level of the positions that were eliminated, she said. Four of the seven employees affected by last year’s layoff are still working at the station, she said.

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.