Fall / Winter 2021

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S AG-AFTRA and National Public Radio have reached a $258 million national contract agreement that is not only a great deal for members, but also redefines the way contracts can be negotiated. "Members led our team in shaping this contract," said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. "Through their persistence and dedication, they achieved a contract that values the work they do by providing commitments on advancing equity and inclusion, increased parental leave, a more equitable pay structure and a commitment to pursue additional enhancements that improve work-life balance. This deal frees them to continue to do what they do best: create high-quality programming." "This new contract really shows the power of a collaborative and respectful negotiating process," said News Desk reporter Becky Sullivan and lead member of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating team. "It exemplifies what happens when both parties are committed to working together to fix problems and share mutual goals. We could not have achieved so much without the united strength of our more than 500 union members standing together as one and without the true and honest commitment from the leadership at NPR." While members achieved a great contract, what's particularly remarkable is how they got there. The agreement serves as a case study into turning an adversarial relationship between employer and union into one that is mutually beneficial. In 2017, negotiations were contentious; management's team was staffed with lawyers from an anti-union law firm and employee morale suffered as a result. Near the end of 2019, a new CEO, John Lansing, took over at NPR, and he vowed to repair the frayed relationship. His timing proved to be fortuitous, as the next year, NPR was buffeted by both the pandemic and the economic downturn, and the media organization had to turn to its employees in an effort to save money and stay afloat. NPR asked the unit to take temporary pay cuts and furloughs, and in exchange, no one would be laid off. Bolstered by a strong belief in NPR's mission and trusting Lansing's collaborative approach, unit members overwhelmingly agreed. The pandemic also threw up an obstacle to negotiations. The contract was set to expire June 30, 2020, but as the date neared and the COVID pandemic worsened, both sides agreed to a 15-month extension. In the end, the contract ended up being negotiated virtually anyway, but despite the unusual venue, it went smoother than it had previously, when it was in-person and the atmosphere was hostile. The cooperative approach ended up being a win for everyone: NPR was able to stabilize financially and keep its talented team, while employees kept their jobs — even while peers at many other stations and networks lost theirs. Employees also ended up with strong gains in a contract that values their contributions to public radio. The new contract exemplifies NPR and SAG-AFTRA's strengthened partnership. Both organizations worked together throughout the pandemic to ensure the safety and wellbeing of NPR staff and to preserve SAG-AFTRA jobs. Among other things, the new contract reflects NPR and SAG-AFTRA's mutual commitment to realizing NPR's DEI priorities, including ensuring transparent, fair and equitable practices related to hiring, career development, pay and promotions. New NPR Contract Demonstrates the Power of Collaboration HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AGREEMENT INCLUDE: TWENTY WEEKS of fully paid parental leave — up from the previous eight weeks — and 26 weeks of job protection for leave taken for the birth, adoption, foster or other placement of a child. A COMMITMENT that at least 30% of external candidates interviewed for regular bargaining unit positions be from underrepresented groups that advance NPR's diversity goals. IMPROVEMENTS TO the minimum salary system that will help ensure greater pay transparency and equity. In addition to an upcoming January 2022 general wage increase, about 150 SAG-AFTRA-covered employees will also receive a further increase as a result of these new minimums. A MORE transparent promotions process. | Fall/Winter 2021 | SAG-AFTRA 65 Lauren Landau Jack Speer

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