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KMEX-TV Workers Walk Off Job

Labor: Use of nonunion workers said to be at issue for producers, technicians and the Univision-owned station.

October 24, 2000|NANCY CLEELAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Employees at the region's largest Spanish-language television station, KMEX-TV, walked off the job early Monday, capping a long-simmering contract dispute with management.

The action began just after midnight, following a weekend of promising negotiations supervised by a federal mediator. Agreements were reached on wages and benefits, but talks fell apart over job security issues.

The station's 120 producers, writers, camera operators and technicians are represented by the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, Local 53.

Bargaining committee member Leroy Jackson, a 13-year KMEX employee, said the station wanted to insert language that would allow nonunion workers to perform most production work.

"They're trying to bust this union, that's the bottom line," Jackson said. "Considering all the concessions this membership has made in the last couple of contracts, and the overwhelming success this station has had, it's just plain unfair."

The station, which airs on Channel 34, is owned by Univision, the nation's leading Spanish-language television network. In its quarterly report Monday, Univision Communications Inc. announced "substantial increases in net revenues, earnings . . . and net income." Net revenue for the quarter increased by 20% to $121 million over the previous year.

In a brief written statement, station spokeswoman Patricia Ramos said, "It is disappointing that the union membership has decided to initiate a job action instead of seeking a resolution to the remaining key issues at the bargaining table, especially since there has been such dramatic and encouraging progress made during the past week."

Ramos said managers and support staff would fill in during the strike, and that the station would continue to operate "at full capacity."

About 100 picketers gathered outside the station's Los Angeles studios Monday morning. Jackson said no union members crossed the line, and that the station appeared to be struggling to find qualified Spanish-speaking replacement workers.

He also said the union was talking with advertisers about dropping ads. "If they're going to keep us out on the street, we're going to do all we can to bring an equal amount of grief to them," he said.

However, station spokesman Dan Spelling said there had been "no ramifications whatsoever, as far as advertising."

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