Despite an anti-union campaign by their employer, workers at StoryCorps voted to join Communication Workers of America Local 1180 in New York, City.
Unless you listen to National Public Radio (NPR) stations, you may not have heard of StoryCorps.
It’s a non-profit that gathers and archives stories of ordinary people. It does so says the StoryCorps website “in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”
NPR stations broadcast some of these stories once a week, and StoryCorps also produces podcasts for its website.
“We (gather these stories) to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters,” states the StoryCorps website.
Occasionally, these stories are about the work people do and the value of their work.
StoryCorps employs producers, production assistants, facilitators who conduct interviews, and others who help gather, archive, and present these stories.
StoryCorps workers have their own story. It’s about an employer that under values and under appreciates the work they do.
“We experienced sudden layoffs, worked for low wages, and weren’t able to negotiate over working conditions,” said Mia Warren, a StoryCorps production assistant and an activist in the union campaign.
Warren and other pro-union staff thought that the best way to address these problems was to have a union.
“My colleagues and I decided to come together and organize so we could have a seat at the table to discuss issues like health care benefits, severance packages, and greater transparency around pay,” continued Warren.
But StoryCorps management wasn’t interested in listening to its workers; instead, it hired an anti-union law firm, Holland & Knight to conduct a union avoidance campaign.
Workers began talking about forming a union in 2016, and contacted CWA to help them.
By June 2017, they had collected enough signatures on union authorization cards to present them to management and request that it voluntarily recognize the union.
StoryCorps said, “no” and hired Holland & Knight.
What followed was a classic anti-union campaign.
StoryCorps held captive audience meetings in which management presented an anti-union message to workers.
StoryCorps developed and distributed a Frequently Asked Questions memo about unions that repeated the same anti-union message that was presented in the captive audience meetings.
StoryCorps tried to postpone the union election by questioning the composition of the bargaining unit that would be represented by the union.
When the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the proposed bargaining unit was a valid one, StoryCorps continued to push its anti-union message.
Finally, the union representation election took place.
Workers in Brooklyn where the non-profit is headquartered had a chance to cast their vote on August 22.
Workers in other locations voted by mail.
After all the votes were cast, the NLRB counted them and on September 13 announced that 83 percent of StoryCorps union-eligible workers had voted for the union.
“Even when facing an anti-union campaign by management, my coworkers and I stayed strong for months, said Roselyn Almonte, a national facilitator at StoryCorps. “Now that we’ve made our voices heard, we can’t wait to get to the bargaining table.”
Prior to the election, StoryCorps said that if its workers voted in favor of a union, it will recognize the union and bargain in good faith.
Now the question is whether StoryCorps will keep its word or will it delay bargaining in an attempt to erode support for the union and win what it couldn’t through the ballot–a union-free StoryCorps.