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Hunger Strike at KFTV in Fresno

 
March 19th, 2000 - DAY 31 of the Hunger Strike

        Saturday March 18th the 30th day of the Hunger Strike at KFTV
Channel 21 Fresno saw a 2nd day of negotiations and at 6pm the
presentation by the company of a final offer.  The Union Negotiating
Committee decided that, although dissatisfied with many areas of the
offer, it would be presented to the membership for a vote.  The
membership meeting and a full explanation in Spanish of the offer
including wage increases followed at 6:30pm.   The Federal Mediator sat
in on the presentation of the offer to the membership.  In the secret
ballot vote that followed the discussion, the contract was rejected in
an UNANIMOUS VOTE OF 14 to Reject and 0 to Accept (4 members were not
present to vote).

        Among the issues which caused the rejection vote were: lack of
job security and geographical jurisdiction to continue to do their work
for the station, no meal period for the Master Control Operators (the
offer contained $7 instead), the removal of one existing floating
holiday (apparently in retribution for voting for union representation),
non-union freelancers, limited public appearance fees instead of
overtime for Reporters and Anchors (who had been required to appear free
prior to the arrival of the Union), Upgrading language that would pay
only 25 per hour for upgrading to Show Director, Unit Seniority in the
event of layoff, and the wage offer - which though improved (Hunger
Striker Reina Cardenas was offered only a 5% increase - equal to that
denied her in annual increases not given last year) was still deemed
inadequate by many members at the meeting.     

        In a related development which only came to light today, on
Saturday morning March 11th, General Manager Maria Gutierrez brought
Anna Sanchez, the Fresno Witch into the KFTV Channel 21 building.  The
herbs burned by Sanchez and management personnel set-off the fire alarm,
necessitating a call to surprised Union members in Master Control to
reset the alarm and help clear the smoke from the facility.  The
ceremony was not part of any television taping, and apparently didn't
work since the contract was rejected by a vote of 14 no to 0 yes, and
the hunger strike continues.

        The Federal Mediator, Rudy Medina, conveyed the rejection by
phone to the KFTV General Manager Maria Gutierrez.  He also spent over
an hour discussing with the Union Negotiating Committee (who are the 3
remaining original Hunger Strikers) reasons why they should end their 30
day long HUNGER STRIKE.  The Union committee, offended at the content of
the Company offer, decided to continue the Hunger Strike, which today
Fresno Hunger Strike 3/19/00 enters its second month, having begun on
February 18th in anticipation of the Fresno visit  February 24th of
Henry Cisneros, President of Univision to speak to the Valley Business
Conference 2000.  When Cisneros refused to meet with his employees, the
Hunger Strike and viewer boycott grew to include a news source boycott
with the Union actively following news crews in the field and both
asking people not to give interviews and holding signs in the background
of the news stories asking viewers to turn-off the station.  This week,
the Union also actively began asking advertisers to pull their ads from
the station until the contract dispute is resolved.  Three advertisers
(all car dealers) have thus far pulled their spots, contact will begin
this week with the national advertisers who buy time on the Number One
Rated Station.  Ad Agencies have reported to the Union that the station
has doubled its ad prices in the last year.  1999 Corporate profits are
reported at $77 Million, Univision stock opened at $70 in July when
negotiations began and after reaching a high of $112 in January closed
at $95 on Friday.  KFTV is rated #1 in Fresno English and Spanish
Viewing Ratings.

        Unwilling to respect the act of conscience of those who have not
eaten (consuming only fruit, vegetable juices and water) since February
18th, station management persists in circulating rumors that the hunger
strikers are secretly eating.  Angered also at the comment by station
General Manager, Maria Gutierrez, in the March 15th New York Times that
the hunger strike is a melodramatic gesture and that "This is a
garden-variety labor dispute in connection with a first contract" - the
NABET-CWA group has dedicated a Maria Gutierrez "Garden-Variety Labor
Dispute KFTV" Garden in front of Channel 21. 

        The current 5 Hunger Strikers are: Reina Cardenas-Reporter
currently making $25,300 offered $26,520, Martin Castellano - Master
Control Operator currently making $21,481 after 10 years with the
station and offered $26,520, Carrie Biggs-Adams - Union Negotiator for
NABET-CWA,  Angel Noriega - Committee of the Poor, and community member
who joined the Hunger Strike to replace Fermin Chavez - Anchor currently
paid $32,500 and offered $36,036 who had to leave the hunger strike on
March 10th on orders of his cardiologist, and Tami Van Dyne from Hotel
Employees and Restaurant Employees Union who joined in solidarity March
17th.

        Negotiations will resume on Friday March 23rd & 24th in Fresno
at the Piccadilly Inn Airport.  Union Negotiator and Hunger Striker
Carrie Biggs-Adams can be reached  at: (818) 349-4057 home or cellular
(818) 516-4151.   For more information call the hunger strikers  %
Martin Castellano cellular (559) 307-4841. 

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