A strike that deserves our strong support
Strikers are facing company scabs and loss of their healthcare benefits.
Two dozen technicians and electrical workers at WTTW--Channel 11, Chicago’s so-called public television (PBS) channel, have been on strike since March 16. So far, the station has kept operating with management personnel and scab labor, and the parent company, Window to the World Communications has refused to meet with the union.
The striking IBEW workers include camera operators, graphic artists, and floor crew responsible for various productions at WTTW, including the station’s signature nightly news program, “Chicago Tonight.”
There have been no talks since the strike began.
Instead, striking members of Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers received notice from WTTW saying their employer-subsidized health insurance will end as of Friday, April 1, leaving families without health care in the middle of the pandemic. Currently, the workers are receiving no strike pay.
“One of the guys on the picket line actively has cancer, and a couple of guys have had cancer in the past,” said John Rizzo, business manager for Downers Grove-based IBEW Local 1220. “Removing that coverage and putting the cost burden back on these people with no paychecks to help support it, it’s quite frankly an evil move on their part.” (Tribune)
The technicians had been working without a labor contract since July. The issues are job protection and work jurisdiction, according to the union, which alleges WTTW is trying to farm out their long-standing technical duties to news producers and nonunion personnel. Cameramen and editors at the station start at $20 an hour and it takes up to seven years before they are earning a living wage.
But support for the strikers is growing. Last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared at a union rally in front of the station’s North Side studios, while Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a statement of support on Thursday.
“Until WTTW-Channel 11 can come to an agreement on a fair contract, I stand in solidarity with the men and women of IBEW Local 1220 and will honor their strike,” Pritzker said.
The Democratic Party of Illinois sent a letter last week to Sandra Cordova Micek, president and CEO of Window to the World Communications, parent of WTTW-Ch. 11, saying it also stood in solidarity with the striking workers and had notified political candidates that appear on the station would be considered crossing a picket line.
The next time you get your annual request for a donation to WTTW, you might consider telling management that you're giving it to the striking workers’ healthcare fund instead.
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