NABET-CWA Local 24: Six decades and counting.

One of NABET-CWA’s oldest locals, Local 24 in Watertown-Massena, N.Y., was created in 1946 with two AM radio stations – one in Watertown and the other in Massena. The area is known as the North Country, a region of New York that encompasses the state’s extreme northern frontier, on the border of Canada.

The Local had just 15 members at the time, after they received their own charter. Originally they were members of Local 211 in Syracuse. A few of these members had also worked to help negotiate contracts at the Kingston, Ontario, broadcast station and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) network, in conjunction with the Canadian NABET.

Television stations, owned by the radio stations WMSA and WWNY/WCNY, came to the area in 1954, doubling the Local’s membership. Through the years, the number of members has fluctuated, expanding with news and radio, as well as with the addition of another television studio. Currently, Local 24 represents about 40 members at five radio stations and two television stations: WMSA-AM, WTNY-AM/WCIZ-FM, WWNY-TV 7/WNYS-FOX28, and WNER-AM/WFRY-FM.

The Local’s leadership includes President Dianne Chase (WTNY/WCIZ radio), Secretary Eric Amundsen (WWNY/WNYF-TV), and Treasurer David Wells (WWNY/WNYF-TV). The Local is conducting a special election for the currently vacant Vice President position.

Local 24 is one of the few locals in the Union that still have radio stations, according to Local 24 Secretary Eric Amundsen. For many years, the stations had been affiliated with area television and newspapers.

WWNY was the first Watertown-based television station. The call sign WCNY-TV stood for Carthage, New York. It was locally owned by the Johnson family, along with the Watertown Daily Times and WWNY radio (now WTNY). In 1965, it changed the call letters to WWNY to match its radio sisters.

In the 1970’s, the radio, television and newspaper affiliations were divested. The Johnson family sold WWNY to current owner United Communications Corporation in 1981. WWNY is a sister station to Fox affiliate WNYF, which UCC began operating in 2001.

Labor Relations

One of the more significant moments in Local 24’s labor relations occurred in the late 1990s with WWNY, just as the station was trying to get its Fox station on the air. Amundsen said the Company’s desire to get Fox up and running worked in the Union’s favor when it held a picket of 50-60 people, bought a billboard and built a website to advertise its difficulties in reaching a contract at the station. The technical unit’s two-year struggle resulted in pay raises and bonuses.

“We had the tri-town labor community helping, with dozens of people picketing,” said Amundsen. “It was something the Company had never experienced before and it worked.”

Amundsen also fondly recalls a fabulous party the Local hosted for two years in the ‘90s, when it rented a Mississippi Riverboat that cruised around the Thousand Islands.

Local 24 currently is in between negotiations, with the next set of talks starting next May.

Long-time NABET-CWA photographer remembered

Former WWNY photographer and NABET-CWA member, Don LaPage, was

remembered in a retrospective that aired on the station earlier this year, offering a television history lesson to viewers. Don retired after 38 years at WWNY, and passed away in March.

According to the station’s website, LaPage was “a fixture at the TV station,” having worked there from 1955 to 1992. “[LaPage] came up during an era when news photography was technically demanding. Everything was shot on film, which was then placed into chemical baths, which would eventually turn into the pictures you’d see on TV. A lot could go wrong. It was an era that required and rewarded craft, and Don was a craftsman.”

Even the mayor of Watertown, Jeffrey Graham, commented on the story on his April 2 blog: “He was a great guy to work with back in the day when 16 mm film was the medium and Union rules said a NABET technician had to handle the equipment.” Graham has a background in news at WFYF-TV in Watertown.

NABET News Fall 2013

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