SAG-AFTRA files labor complaint against WBEZ management

Relations continue to deteriorate between Chicago Public Media and WBEZ employees 

The clash between SAG-AFTRA and WBEZ management is heading to a showdown.

On Monday, SAG-AFTRA filed an unfair labor complaint to the National Labor Relations Board against Chicago Public Media, the non-profit owner of the Chicago Sun-TImes and WBEZ -the first since the station’s employees joined the union in 2013. They claim the organization failed to provide information on numerous issues, including financials and the number of employees CPM has. 

WBEZ employees were frozen out of an annual board meeting after management decided to hold it virtually instead of in person, and disabling any type of feedback. 

“We have been asking and asking for a dialogue, and for a chance to work together on some of the issues that we face at WBEZ,” news anchor and union labor council member Mary Dixon told the Chicago Tribune. ”It just is so disappointing to have that annual meeting moved online. To me, that’s not what public media should be about.”

Tensions have escalated between management and SAG-AFTRA since WBEZ announced layoffs April 3, resulting in the cancellation of several programs and stripping Vocalo 91.1 bare, ending live programming and repositioning it as a jockless music station. 

Chairman Matt Moog is still CEO of the organization, despite announcing his departure last December and agreeing to stay on as interim CEO – nearly six months ago. Since the layoffs were announced, CPM has been more secretive about meetings, closing them off to the public – and employees despite being a non-commercial station partially funded by public money. The Tribune states that WBEZ is close to naming a replacement.

CPM defended its actions in statements provided to Crain’s, saying the organization has the right to meet privately, and does open meetings to the public – but pointed out that being in attendance does not mean one has the right to participate. 

WBEZ’s terrestrial ratings have eroded since they peaked during the pandemic when they topped the 25-54 demo. The station has prioritized digital distribution instead, as live, local programming on WBEZ was reduced to one hour a day. Digital numbers for WBEZ were not available.

At the meeting, the CPM board approved a 2025 budget, with $70 million in revenue, $71 million in expenses, and a projection of a $1.14 million deficit. CPM plans to hire a few people in the content department, with a total headcount of 303 employees. 


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