NBC Chicago workers plan to protest against their employer tomorrow, claiming that station managers are trying to change their job titles as a way of reducing their compensation.
The workers are members of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, part of the Communications Workers of America. They include camera operators, lighting technicians, news writers, technical directors and video editors.
Ray W. Taylor, president of the the union's Local 41, says the changes could come later this month and would affect 202 NBC Chicago workers. About 78 are full-time employees, while the rest are temporary workers hired on a daily basis.
Taylor says NBC bosses plan to turn some of the jobs into management positions, which would exempt them from union-negotiated compensation such as overtime, night-shift differentials and additional pay for short-turnover assignments.
The company plans to lay off other workers, Taylor says, but he could not say how many.
The changes would come as traditional media companies face mounting challenges from the Internet and a loss of revenue from key advertisers, such as the troubled auto industry.
"I understand the cutting of the costs. Certainly it's evident to everyone," Taylor says. "But we are contractually entitled to continue to perform the jobs that we have performed for 75 years."
The union's contract with the company expired in March, but negotiations continue, he says.
NBC Chicago spokeswoman Toni Falvo did not respond to phone calls. Station Manager Frank Whittaker, reached by phone, declined to comment.
Taylor says NBC warned employees of the changes on Jan. 27, and that managers invited union employees to reapply for the management positions. The union advised its members to apply for the jobs while the union continued to negotiate with the company, he says.
The union challenged the move in February, filing a charge of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board. Taylor says he expects the Board to announce a decision next month.
"They will be given these jobs as management people — the same jobs they are doing today," Taylor says. "They're the same people performing the same jobs with little variation."
He says that, depending on weather, he expects 25 to 50 workers at tomorrow's protest, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 401 N. Michigan Ave., near the NBC studios.