The Stand

KUOW journalists picket (again) over low-wage proposal

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Station management and University of Washington stonewall employees on fair wages


The following is from SAG-AFTRA members who work at KUOW:

SEATTLE (Dec. 15, 2022) – The continued refusal of managers to pay anything close to a living wage has forced KUOW’s unionized staff, including the familiar voices that bring you the news, to picket the public radio station for a second time this fall. KUOW’s SAG-AFTRA members held an informational picket Tuesday outside the KUOW studios in Seattle. They picketed to let management know it has to get serious about ongoing negotiations for livable wages for at KUOW.

The journalists who work at KUOW Public Radio believe in the mission of public media and have dedicated their lives to it, but that can’t come at the cost of not being able to live in the communities they cover.

KUOW is a well-funded institution with roughly $21 million in annual revenue, yet most KUOW journalists last year earned so little they could qualify for low-income housing in Seattle. Under management’s latest offer, presented Monday to the KUOW SAG-AFTRA union team, half of KUOW journalists would still qualify for low-income housing as a one-person household, and two-thirds would qualify as a two-person household.

Union members and their SAG-AFTRA representatives walked out on contract talks Monday after receiving another insulting offer from management.

“We need our bosses to take our demands for a living wage seriously and bargain in good faith to keep this station from bleeding any more talent,” said KUOW announcer/producer Natalie Newcomb.

Since the KUOW newsroom signed its first union contract in June 2019, the cost of living has shot up 18.5 percent in the Seattle area (as of October 2022). Union wages at KUOW have gone up just 6.1 percent in that time.

Union negotiators have tried to make sure nobody working at KUOW needs to depend on government assistance to live in Seattle. Still, the union has lowered its salary proposals repeatedly despite minimal effort by KUOW management or the University of Washington (KUOW’s FCC license holder) to compromise in return.

Fair pay is also the missing link in KUOW’s push to have a diverse and equitable workplace.

“KUOW managers tell listeners that equity and inclusion are critical to our journalism. But management is not backing up the talk with equitable wages,” said KUOW host Patricia Murphy. “Paying fair wages should be standard for an organization as resource-rich as KUOW.”

The two sides have been in contract negotiations since April and, at management’s insistence, in mediation through the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission since September. The KUOW SAG-AFTRA contract expired on June 30.

Follow KUOW’s SAG-AFTRA members on Twitter @WeMakeKUOW and post messages of support using #SoundStoriesSoundWages.

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