The former employees of a Spanish-language radio station say they are hopeful they might return to work after being fired for what they say is retaliation for union activity.
The news came after the National Labor Relations Board, the government agency that investigates unfair labor practices, found enough evidence to support charges that seven employees of the Miami-based Spanish Broadcasting System Inc., known as SBS, were wrongfully terminated after joining a union.
“I am very excited, but we still have a long way to go,” said Felix Castillo, a former on-air talent known as DJ Mr. Boro at La Raza 97.9 (KLAX-FM) and Mega 96.3 (KXOL-FM), said in a phone interview. “I want to go back to work and join my colleagues.”
SBS Chairman Raúl Alarcón described the union’s allegations as “false” and “malicious.”
“The company will vigorously defend itself against these false claims to the fullest extent permitted by the law,” he said in a statement.
SBS General Counsel Richard D. Lara said in a statement: “SBS has provided witness testimony and thousands of documents to the NLRB directly contracting the outlandish SAG-AFTRA allegations concerning a handful of employees at our two L.A.-based radio stations, and we fully expect to prevail against these spurious claims.”
The dispute started last year after union representatives began negotiations with SBS employees, who said they decided to join the SAG-AFTRA union so they could have protection from what they described as unfair management practices, including being denied minimum wage, overtime, reimbursements and meal beaks during live promotional events.
In August 2016, they became the first Spanish-language radio station in Los Angeles to unionize.
But during negotiations, the employees say, SBS representatives refused to meet with the union, declined discussing wages and made changes to employees’ health care plans without notifying workers. They also allegedly bargained in bad faith, “failing to furnish information necessary and relevant to bargaining,” according to the union’s statement.
Then in March SBS fired seven of its employees, or a quarter of the workforce, “in retaliation for their union activities, in an effort to decimate the union, and unlawfully failed to give SAG-AFTRA an opportunity to bargain about the terminations,” the union’s statement said.
Earlier this year, SAG-AFTRA filed six charges with the NLRB, asking to issue a complaint on unlawful terminations.
Now, the union is asking the board to set a quick trial date and go into federal district court to obtain an injunction to get the fired employees back to work.
The union says the board will likely encourage parties to reach a settlement in the coming weeks before issuing a complaint.
“They can settle if they are willing to reinstate all the terminated employees, give full back pay for the period they were not working and for any kind of monetary harm that was caused as a result of their termination,” said Julie Gutman Dickinson, an attorney and partner at Bush Gottlieb, a law firm that represents SAG-AFTRA in the case before the NLRB.
“The National Labor Relations Board’s findings underscore what we have been saying all along,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. “For nearly a year, SBS has failed to negotiate a fair contract with the union, and refuses to engage in good faith bargaining over economics, including wages. SBS’s blatant disregard for workers’ rights cannot and will not be tolerated.
SBS pushed back against allegations.
“I find it ironic that, at this critical juncture when Latino culture and its institutions are under relentless attack, the union has singled out for criticism the only truly national Hispanic media origination with an unblemished historical record of service to our community,” Alarcón said.
Castillo and his colleagues are hoping the dispute will be over soon, letting them reunite with their colleagues.
“I miss my co-workers and nothing would make me happier than going back and working with them again,” Castillo said.
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