Amid staff unrest, The Current and Classical MPR seek unionization

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Employees of Minnesota Public Radio’s Twin Cities music stations — The Current and Classical MPR — delivered petitions Thursday to company management to form two distinct unions. The action comes during a tumultuous month for parent company American Public Media Group.
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Employees of Minnesota Public Radio’s Twin Cities music stations — The Current and Classical MPR — delivered petitions Thursday to company management to form two distinct unions.

In letters to management at Classical MPR and The Current, staff asked that SAG-AFTRA be recognized as their union and for collective bargaining to begin. Both letters stated a need to diversify staff at the stations, and the letter from The Current staff also raises questions of gender equity. 

“Our station consistently wields its influence to center white voices and narratives, effectively ignoring the racism and other forms of oppression that plague our community,” wrote The Current employees to station managers. “Meanwhile, our staff has become less racially diverse over time. Through it all, Minnesota Public Radio has systematically silenced The Current’s women employees, perpetuated pay inequity and failed to protect The Current’s hosts from physical and mental harm.”

A spokesperson for parent company American Public Media Group confirmed receiving the petitions.

“Management at Classical MPR and The Current received letters today from some employees in these departments expressing their intention to unionize under SAG-AFTRA,” said spokesperson Kelly Reller. “We're currently reviewing the details of this letter and are considering the requests included.”

The unionization effort comes after upheaval throughout the organization. 

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Earlier this month, MPR fired Garrett McQueen, the company’s only Black classical music host, over his changing of playlists. Last week, longtime MPR News reporter Marianne Combs resigned over what she described as editors stalling on a story she was reporting on allegations related to a host at The Current. The next day, after several hosts at The Current tweeted in support of Combs and unnamed women making the allegations, MPR fired DJ Eric Malmberg.

This week, APMG President and CEO Jon McTaggart announced he will step down once a replacement is found. His decision came on the same day a group of MPR and American Public Media staffers wrote a letter alleging decades of mismanaged racial concerns. That was followed by a separate anonymous letter by employees demanding accountability in gender equity and criticizing executive compensation during a period of staff layoffs and downsizing. 

The Current and Classical MPR are asking the company to voluntarily recognize the unions. A Twitter account called MPR Music Unions said the effort to organize goes beyond recent incidents.

In Classical MPR’s letter to managers, staff also asked for equitable and transparent compensation and consistent employee discipline and termination. 

Sister station MPR News unionized under SAG-AFTRA in 2017.