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Indeed, no other stations' news personnel have union representation. But shop steward Hosford claims that as a result of the union's existence at Channel 10, photographers at the other stations receive many of the same benefits in order to remain competitive. If the union withdraws from WPLG, Hosford believes, every news photographer in Miami will feel the impact. (Not everyone at Channel 10 belongs to the union, either. Although all 26 WPLG photographers are covered by the union contract and receive union benefits, under Florida law joining a union and paying union dues is voluntary. At Channel 10 approximately one-third of the photographers have never formally joined and do not pay the required two percent of their gross salary as union dues.)
When ballots were distributed on June 30, the vote was fourteen to eleven in favor of retaining the union. Hosford says he wasn't surprised the tally was close, acknowledging that photographers were frustrated at going so long without a raise. But because the vote was so tight, Hosford and Berkowitz fear Channel 10 executives will continue to stall and refuse to negotiate a new contract in hopes of increasing the frustration level. Another decertification vote can be scheduled next June, if eight photographers call for it.
Which is why the union is expanding its boycott campaign. Picketers have targeted not only Eckerd stores, but Burdines, Circuit City, Sunshine Ford, Rooms To Go, and Winn Dixie. Last month the union received the backing of the Dade and Broward chapters of the AFL-CIO, both of which promised to urge members to boycott Channel 10 advertisers as well as the station itself.
Earlier this month, the union representing the 2400 nurses at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Public Health Trust wrote the station expressing outrage. "Negotiations are a good-faith process," the nurses wrote. "As WPLG is so blatantly violating that good faith process by its intransigence in negotiations and its recalcitrant proposals, we have no alternative but to mobilize our members to support our sisters and brothers in Local 666."
Hosford says attacking the station and its advertisers was a very difficult decision for him. "We don't want to hurt Channel 10's reputation," he says, "but if this is the only way to get them to negotiate with us and to listen to us, then this is what we will have to do.