Boston Broadcasting Techs Overwhelmingly Vote IBEW


February 4, 2014


Boston sports freelancers now look forward to the kinds of wages and benefits that existing IBEW broadcasting pros enjoy as part of their union-negotiated contracts.

More than 30 freelancers working for Program Productions, Inc., voted overwhelmingly to be represented by Boston Local 1228 in an NLRB-certified election Jan. 8.

“This is a big win for these professionals,” said Local 1228 Business Manager Fletcher Fischer of the unit that includes technical managers and directors, audio engineers, camera operators and more. “IBEW freelancers have a caliber and skill set that is the highest standard in the industry. These new members are right up there, and they deserve to have better wages and begin to have benefits that go along with union representation.”

Being a freelancer in the televised sports industry can be tricky. A camera operator, for example, might get hired by several different companies to shoot various events over any given week. One night could be baseball at Fenway Park, the next day could be a local college football or soccer game, then back to baseball – each time for a different client.  Nonunion clients offer work at a lower rate than a union contract rate and do not contribute toward medical or 401(k) benefits.

By unionizing at the company, commonly known as PPI, employees are looking forward to working under a contract with better wages and benefits that IBEW members nationwide have. In the broadcasting branch, workers have teamed with IBEW leaders to negotiate more than 300 contracts, including national agreements with Fox Sports and CBS.

Local 1228 Assistant Business Manager John Murphy, who spearheaded the campaign, said that face-to-face contact with organizing staff and IBEW freelance members at job sites, restaurants and the union hall was crucial to the win.

“We have members who work under the national CBS and Fox agreements, and they know the union difference,” Murphy said. “And by organizing more of the market in Boston and the surrounding areas, freelancers will start to see benefits across the board – so no matter where they work, they’ll get better wages, working conditions and benefits.”

Vital to the campaign’s success was Local 1228 organizer Steve Katsos, a veteran audio tech with 20 years as an IBEW member. Katsos and International Lead Organizer Steve Smith met one-on-one with freelancers throughout the region, answered questions and helped illustrate why the IBEW was the best choice among various other unions they could have joined.

Other tools, like text message conversations, social media platforms like Facebook and a special page on Local 1228’s website for freelancers helped beat back anti-union tactics from PPI management.

Fischer said the win offers a sign of hope to the professional broadcast techs at a time when sports broadcasting has exploded in revenue and more sports networks like Fox Sports 1 and 2 are launching.

“There have been changes in technology, changes in staffing over the years,” he said. “But live broadcast sports is never going away. This is a career path with a good future, and we’re trying to make that future better for these employees. We want to see people get a fair shake and make sure they are paid properly for their professionalism.”

Look for more in-depth coverage on the future of IBEW broadcasting efforts in an upcoming issue of The Electrical Worker.