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Document: Union employees at Sacramento, Cleveland Fox stations could lose jobs following Sinclair merger

Union employees at two Fox affiliates currently owned by Tribune Media could lose their jobs following a proposed merger with Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the latter company said in a little-noticed FCC filing last month.

In a 96-page exhibit Sinclair quietly filed with the Federal Communications Commission last month, the company said it would order executives and managers at Sacramento’s KTXL (Channel 40) and Cleveland’s WJW-TV (Channel 8) to not discuss any potential bargaining efforts with union-represented employees.

Those two stations are among several Sinclair hopes to re-sell to the Fox Television Stations, Inc. if regulators approve its $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune. A decision on the matter could come from the FCC within the next few weeks.

In April, Sinclair said it would divest KTXL, WJW and several other Fox stations to an unknown buyer after regulators expressed concern over the size of Sinclair’s post-merger market share. On May 9, Sinclair confirmed it would sell those stations to Fox in order to ease those worries.

Of the seven stations Sinclair would sell to Fox, only KTXL and WJW were singled out with regard to the presence of union-represented employees.

According to the filing, as the owner of KTXL and WJW, Sinclair would order all station directors, executives and officers not to discuss union-related matters with employees with respect to collective bargaining agreements or initiatives.

The order, which also applies to managers and supervisors of union-represented employees, says executives would be forbidden from discussing whether or not Fox would accept any collective bargaining agreement or offer to hire any union-represented employees “on the same or similar terms and conditions” set forth in current agreements.

The demand suggests that Fox would not be required to adhere to current collective bargaining agreements at KTXL and WJW-TV, and that union employees could find themselves out of a job if Fox refuses to come to the negotiating table. The document also says Fox would be notified by Sinclair if the company becomes aware of any effort by employees to unionize.

The document is at least the second acknowledgement by Sinclair that union employees are not guaranteed a job if the merger with Tribune goes through.

Last year, a union representing employees at Seattle’s KOMO-TV (Channel 4) said Sinclair refused to promise it would not lay off photojournalists at the station if the Tribune merger is approved. One union leader previously said he was considering a campaign against the Sinclair-Tribune merger out of fears the merger would lead to consolidation of roles, which would ultimately cost jobs across the combined company.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).