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AFTRA battles in Chicago

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has enlisted the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in its effort to gain negotiating authority and compensation parity for on-air employees at WSNS(TV) Chicago.

The Telemundo station is now a unit of NBC, part of an English-/Spanish-language duopoly with NBC's WMAQ-TV.

In a letter to NBC Stations President Jay Ireland, the caucus asked the network to recognize AFTRA as negotiator for the Chicago Telemundo staffers without holding a secret ballot election, based on a petition signed earlier this year by all nine on-air station employees. "We ask that you refrain from obstructing and instead respect their efforts," said the caucus in a letter.

But Ireland flatly rejects any notion that NBC is either obstructionist or basing decisions on ethnicity or language. He said that, while new hires at NBC's stations may be covered by union contracts, the new Telemundo employees are part of a unit separate from AFTRA-covered WMAQ-TV. He continued to call for a secret ballot under National Labor Relations Board rules to determine representation. NBC executives say the issue is one of due process.

AFTRA wants to close the gap in compensation between English-language and Spanish-language stations in most markets. But others, including NBC, say the gap is related to station revenue, not ethnicity. Historically, Spanish-language stations can't demand the same ad rates English-language stations enjoy.