KMEX-TV ordered to restore bargaining unit work in Los Angeles

On February 17, Arbitrator Mark Burstein sided with NABET-CWA in its grievance on behalf of KMEX-TV/Channel 34 (Univision) traffic coordinators whose jobs were transferred to Univision’s company-wide “hub” in New Jersey. The arbitrator restored the work to the bargaining unit in Los Angeles and ordered KMEX to make the grievants whole.

            “This is big victory for the Union,” said Local 53 President Steve Ross, who explained that the arbitrator’s ruling meant that jurisdiction over these jobs belonged to the Union.

            In its grievance filing, NABET-CWA alleged that the employer violated the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) when it transferred the exclusive bargaining unit work of the KMEX Traffic Department to non-unit employees in Vineland, New Jersey. The 2014 transfer cost the jobs of two Staff KMEX employees – Ana Luna and Nancy Morataya – and two Daily Hires.

            This ruling comes just two months after a December 5 judgment that also found the station’s hubbing of its Master Control work to Houston violated NABET-CWA’s jurisdiction under the CBA. Twelve people were affected by the closure of Master Control; the Daily Hires were let go, and those that were Staff were transferred to other NABET-CWA positions at the station. The decision orders that the work be restored.

            “This is precedent-setting for the industry in that companies’ attempts to unilaterally move jobs on the basis of geographic scope have twice been ruled improper by two different arbitrators,” said Local 53 Grievance Chair Leroy Jackson. “Our members contribute dues for the primary purpose of defending their contracts. At KMEX, our Grievance Committee aims to do our best in achieving this goal, with outstanding support of Local 53, the NABET-CWA Sector and CWA Headquarters. We are proud to have been able to successfully defend our jurisdictional rights.”

            Since last year, Local 53 has had three affirmative rulings related to covered work moving out of the Union’s jurisdiction. A grievance filed against KTTV found that it was in violation of the NABET-CWA contract when it moved jobs to its hub in Las Vegas.

            “The companies fight you tooth and nail, so the only way to defend the contract is to file a grievance,” said Ross. As the largest local in NABET-CWA, Local 53 has the means to defend its contracts, but smaller locals don’t always have that recourse. The situation will only get worse if more right to work laws are implemented around the country.

            The parties are negotiating the grievants’ return to work. The Company has resisted the arbitrators’ ruling, and the Union is aggressively pursuing these awards.

            After a January hearing, NABET-CWA is waiting on yet another arbitration decision over KMEX producer/director/editor (PDE) upgrades. Employees currently are doing the PDE job without the upgrade pay, Ross said, but they are keeping track of the work in anticipation of a possible award in the Union’s favor.