Minnesota United video board techs win union election

IATSE Local 745 represents broadcast professionals who work sports and entertainment events in Minnesota and Iowa. (Local 745 photo)

After an organizing drive that drew support from Loons players and fans, elected officials and the labor community, Minnesota United FC’s video board technicians have won their union, voting to join Local 745 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

The National Labor Relations Board counted votes today after a three-week, mail-in election. Workers voted 18-9 in favor of unionizing.

The new bargaining unit covers part-time technicians employed by the soccer club to film and produce game-day content for the video board at Allianz Field in St. Paul.

The Minnesota United crew is the first group of in-house video technicians at a Minnesota sports franchise to win union representation, according to Local 745, which represents broadcast professionals who work sports and entertainment events in Minnesota and Iowa.

Technicians have said they look forward to bargaining together for better wages and safer working conditions. They also want the Minnesota United to contribute to health care and retirement plans, and provide them with parking spots near the stadium.

Frustration with the club’s lack of response to economic and safety concerns raised by technicians prompted the union drive.

“At the beginning of the season some of our camera operators got together and said we wanted a few things,” Josiah Wollan, a camera and replay operator, told delegates to the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s convention in St. Paul on Sunday. “They said no to everything. They didn’t relent in any of our requests, so we started talking to IATSE and gathering cards.”

Minnesota United agreed to a speedy union election after taking heat from fans and elected officials for denying technicians’ request for voluntary recognition in June, after an overwhelming majority of workers signed cards requesting IATSE representation.

In a press release announcing the election results, IATSE members thanked “fans, lawmakers and other trade unions” for their support during the organizing drive.

“We’ve gotten a lot of solidarity,” Wollen said Sunday. “The players have come out and supported us, and so have the officials, elected officials, the AFL-CIO. The solidarity is what got us to this point, and because of that, I think we have a really good shot on Wednesday when they count our votes.”

While the Loons’ in-house technicians are the first to win union recognition in Minnesota, they aren’t the first to try. Five years ago, members of the Timberwolves’ in-house video crew won a lengthy battle to reverse their status as independent contractors, but they later fell short of the votes to unionize.

Local 745 Business Representative Charlie Cushing said the union “isn’t going anywhere” and looks forward to continuing to fight for better wages, benefits and working conditions for its members, while “supporting anyone else in our industry who wants the same thing.”

“It’s rewarding to see this next generation of broadcast technicians see the value of having labor union representation on the job,” Cushing added.

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