The Potluck

APM Reports staff allege unfair labor practices by Minnesota Public Radio

By: - June 29, 2022 10:50 am

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio.

Employees of the recently dissolved APM Reports unit of Minnesota Public Radio allege the company hasn’t told them whose jobs are at risk or negotiated with them over the layoffs, according to an unfair labor practices complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

MPR President Duchesne Drew sent an email to staff on May 26 announcing the company was eliminating its national investigative unit APM Reports — which produces the award-winning podcast “In the Dark” —  and that some staff would be reassigned to MPR News while others would be let go.

“I know this news is hard to hear and absorb. In the coming days we will work through the Labor Management Committee to finalize plans,” Drew told staff in the email.

The next day, the union representing the workers, SAG-AFTRA, requested more information about how the company was being reorganized, the work being moved to MPR News and the employees at risk of being laid off. The union also demanded that the company negotiate with them, so workers could present an alternative to the company’s plans.

MPR told the union it would provide more information on June 10, according to the NLRB complaint obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

But the company didn’t provide information about the restructuring — and still hasn’t, according to Gail Mrozowski, an attorney representing the workers with SAG-AFTRA.

Employees at APM Reports have continued reporting to work for more than a month since being told their division was being eliminated — but without knowing who is losing their jobs.

About 20 people work at APM Reports, making up about 30% of the unionized news staff. Former APM Reports managing editor Chris Worthington was laid off last month when the announcement was made.

Asked for comment, American Public Media spokeswoman Suzi Kim Scott provided a statement from the company saying they respect the role unions play and have been responsive in sharing information.

“Accordingly we believe the Unfair Labor Practice filed against us is without merit and likely to be dismissed by the National Labor Relations Board,” the statement says.

MPR and its parent company APM have in recent years faced an exodus of staff, who complain of mismanagement and lavish executive pay.

(Disclosure: I worked for MPR News from 2016-2019)

But the non-profit radio network, the largest owner and operator of public radio stations in the country, has also seen its revenue grow over that same time period. Earlier this month, the company celebrated receiving the largest single donation in its 55-year history: a $56 million gift from an anonymous donor for its classical music programming.

Staff at Classical MPR and The Current, MPR’s contemporary music station, unionized in 2020 and are negotiating their first contract. Staff at MPR News and APM Reports, who unionized in 2016, are negotiating new contracts.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.