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St. Louis Public Radio’s news, programming and marketing employees vote to unionize

UMSL at Grand Center Building, home to St. Louis Public Radio
David Kovaluk
UMSL at Grand Center Building, home to St. Louis Public Radio

The non-managerial staff in St. Louis Public Radio’s news, programming and marketing departments voted to form a union.

Seventy-eight percent of the eligible employees voted yes this week to create the St. Louis Public Radio Guild, part of the Communications Workers of America.

The STLPR Guild is the first public media union in Missouri. The vote was conducted under laws governing public-sector employees via a secret ballot, administered by the Missouri Board of Mediation. The results will be certified after a 10-day waiting period, as required by board policy.

“This monumental step is proof our workers are eager to ensure St. Louis Public Radio is a more equitable and sustainable news organization for the years to come,” said Brian Munoz, a photojournalist and multimedia reporter at St. Louis Public Radio and a member of STLPR Guild’s organizing committee.

“Journalism is critical to our democracy, and we want to ensure STLPR’s staff has a seat at the bargaining table so they can continue doing their best work,” said Tammy Chaffee, a district organizing coordinator with the Communication Workers of America.

There has been a flurry of unionization efforts at media outlets around the country in recent years.

All negotiations with the union will be conducted by the University of Missouri Office of Employee and Labor Relations, not the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where the station is based, or with STLPR management.

“While eligible employees voted in favor of unionization, it does not change our important mission, and St. Louis Public Radio remains committed to working collaboratively and productively with all employees as well as the university to continue our award-winning local and NPR news,” the station said in a statement.

“STLPR has an important mission to inform and provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and culture for an engaged public, and this mission will continue under the newly formed union,” the UM System said in a statement.

While both sides are committing to working together toward common goals, there is already one point of contention.

The STLPR Guild wanted to include non-managerial staff members in the business and development departments in the bargaining unit, but they were ultimately not included.

The union calls that effort “part of a larger anti-union campaign” on behalf of the UM System.

System Director of Media Relations Christian Basi said that the members of the bargaining unit were settled on in negotiations and that both sides agreed to what positions would be included.

The union responded in a statement: “While the makeup of our historic union was mutually approved by both parties, it was done so based on university objections. We remain steadfast and committed to fighting for every worker to have union representation — no matter the department.”

Once certified, the union would represent 37 of the station's 65 full- and part-time employees.

This story was written by Jonathan Ahl and edited by Fred Ehrlich, whose positions are not included in the bargaining unit. Additionally, neither will have any role in negotiations with the union.

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.