After a decisive vote, technicians at the Network’s live events control rooms in Chicago will seek a contract providing them with industry standard wages and benefit contributions, and improved working conditions.
The control rooms, in the BTN’s Chicago headquarters, mix the picture and sound for, and insert graphics and replays into, a majority of the Network’s live event programming. In a cost savings move, the network moved good paying jobs that once were done at event venues such as football stadiums and on campus fieldhouses into these control rooms, often hiring workers at below industry standard wages. Starting in the 2009/2010 season with 10 events, this past season the Network produced over 375 events through these “MICR” control rooms. By voting for IATSE representation, the technicians that put these shows on the air have signaled their desire to be fairly compensated for the work they do.
The news of the victory was met with enthusiasm by BTN workers. “This is incredible. I’m so thrilled for all of us,” said Capture/Playback (replay) operator Joel Colwell. ”I’m just proud of our voters who stuck with it.” “These technicians stood up to what was, for many of them, the only employer they had ever known in this industry, and put the interests of their fellow employees first,” said Fran O’Hern, IATSE International Representative. “This mix of staff and freelancers, industry veterans and newcomers, realized that they could do better for themselves by sticking together than by trying to go it alone.”
The success of this organizing campaign is the result of dedicated technicians sticking with the process. Despite the failure of past attempts to organize this work, this winter, a consensus began to develop among the BTN’s MICR technicians that the best way forward was with IATSE representation. Following a series of meetings with IATSE representative Fran O’Hern, and numerous one-on-one and small group talks among themselves, the decision was made to mount a full-on organizing drive. Authorization for Representation cards were collected from the MICR studio employees, and after receiving cards from a majority of technicians, the IATSE filed for a representation election on May 4th. The eventual election was held via mail ballot, with results being counted on the Morning of Friday, June 15 at the NLRB Region 13 offices in Chicago.
The IATSE now holds contracts with the Big Ten Network covering work done at the campuses of 5 Big Ten Conference Schools (The Universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and Indiana and Purdue Universities), and the BTN’s core traveling crews. Work at Rutgers University is done by Big Ten Network technicians working under an IATSE contract with Program Productions, Inc.
The BTN MICR technicians will now work to produce a comprehensive contract proposal which will be presented to the Network when negotiations begin.
The technicians will be represented by IATSE Local 762 in Chicago, which represents broadcast technicians working in live sporting event coverage throughout the Metropolitan Chicago area and beyond. The IATSE is the largest Union of artists and technicians working behind the scenes in the entertainment and display industries.