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AFTRA-NBC Battle Heats Up

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has stepped up its campaign to unionize NBC's Chicago Telemundo station WSNS(TV), acquired when the companies merged last year.

AFTRA is pressuring advertisers to boycott the station and says it may also target the NBC's far stronger English-language station in the market, WMAQ-TV.

AFTRA—which has gained support from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and from local religious and community leaders, with a resolution from the City Council in the works—claims it already persuaded one national advertiser to drop its spending on the Spanish-language station, although it would not name the advertiser.

Larry Wert, who runs the NBC Chicago duopoly, has acknowledged that the boycott has hurt WSNS, but adds that it has also hurt the employees AFTRA seeks to represent by depleting the station's resources.

AFTRA's Chicago Executive Director Eileen Willenborg says the union is willing to sit down with Wert to discuss ground rules for a National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned vote.

Wert, who has consistently called for such an election, says he'll talk with the union, but will not agree to sit on the sidelines during an election. "We would want the opportunity to discuss with our employees the pros and cons of representation," Wert says.

AFTRA opposes management taking an active role in the election