July 14, 2017

This story has been updated.

The SAG/AFTRA union that represents more than 400 on-air and off-air employees of National Public Radio continues taking steps toward a strike. The union posted an online countdown clock ticking down to midnight Friday when the current contract extension expires.

NPR management issued this statement to Poynter late Friday:

Conversations between NPR and SAG-AFTRA are ongoing and progress is being made at the table. NPR continues to negotiate in good faith with the assistance of a federal mediator in the hopes of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement that meets the needs of employees and operations. Our goal is to make this organization economically sustainable for the long-term – and, importantly, enable NPR to invest more resources in expanding audiences, adding newsroom staff to meet that growth and support current staff, and innovating its multi-platform journalism. 

Becky Sullivan, a union shop steward and a member of the bargaining team, told Poynter Friday afternoon that union members voted 290 to zero to ask the national SAG/AFTRA board to allow the NPR workers to strike. If the national board agrees, and she says she believes it will, then NPR workers could vote on whether to authorize a strike.

“The process is that ballots go out by email, the union would spend a lot of time explaining where we are, and the members would have 56 hours to vote by secret ballot.”

As ominous as all that sounds, Sullivan said, “I’m still hopeful about what’s happening.” The union and NPR were in talks Friday morning and afternoon and “I expect we will be talking late into the night tonight,” Sullivan said.

If there is a strike, it would involve high-profile household names including NPR anchors who are covered by the contract.

Friday, union members delivered handwritten postcards to the office of COO Loren Mayor.

Union members took to social media to urge listeners not to penalize local stations.

Update: The 2017 contract expired midnight Friday but the union agreed to extend the contract 24 hours because there were signs of progress.

Both NPR and the union went quiet Saturday. It is a change in tone from the union, which on Friday plastered social media with messages urging the network to reward employees for recent ratings and readership spikes.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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