Staffers at St. Louis Public Radio to vote on unionization June 28


The staff at St. Louis Public Radio will vote on June 28 whether to unionize, which would create the first unionized public radio station in the state of Missouri.

St. Louis Public Radio is an NPR member station broadcasting from the UMSL campus with transmitters in Quincy and Rolla. In January, the organizing committee representing 42 staffers at St. Louis Public Radio presented CEO Tina Pamintuan and the administration of University of Missouri-St. Louis with a statement of interest signed by more than 75 percent of non-managerial employees.

They invited the management staff and the university to voluntarily recognize the new St. Louis Public Radio Guild as organized through Communication Workers of America for collective bargaining.

But the leadership and university administration officially declined to recognize the union, which forced them into a lengthy legal process with the state and a formal election to approve the union.

Committee member Rachel Lippmann said on Friday that the election has been set for Wednesday and results should be known on June 30.

“We are confident that our colleagues will look past the blatant union-busting attempts by the university and take a historic vote to make STLPR a strong and vibrant media outlet that serves both its employees and the community in a fair and equitable way,” Lippmann said. “Once we win, we look forward to productive negotiations with the university.”

Specifically, Lippmann said the university forwarded a Q&A document to all employees detailing how things might change if the union is approved. The last question asked if there are other ways for salaries and benefits to be negotiated without a union. The university replied that any staff member can discuss pay and benefits directly with supervisors and UMSL Human Resources.

“We suggest this approach as it provides the opportunity for us to work directly together to resolve issues and concerns,” the letter read. “We would appreciate this opportunity to support STLPR, and to do that we would ask you to vote no in the upcoming election.”

Under a 2020 ruling from the National Labor Relations Board, an employer can encourage employees to vote no in representation elections only if the request is publicly made to a broad swath of employees, not on an individual basis, and preferably in written form.

The letter also alleges that jobs will not be any more secure under unionization; that salaries and benefits will not be improved with collective bargaining for unionized employees; and that the university does not have to negotiate beyond an impasse. As an example, it said, the system negotiated “in good faith” with International Union of Operating Engineers’ Local 148 at UMSL and reached an impasse, at which point the university was allowed to implement its final offer under Missouri law.

During the legal process, Lippmann and the committee have encouraged donors to continue supporting St. Louis Public Radio, which is funded almost entirely through public donations. Cutting off donations to the radio station would “work at cross purposes” to their intent, Lippmann said.

St. Louis Public Radio employees moved to unionize after allegations that the workplace suffers from a lack of transparency, few advancement opportunities, high turnover and cuts to benefits and compensation. It has also been subject to allegations of racism in hiring and layoff decisions under prior management.

It will be the first unionized public radio station in Missouri, if approved.

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