Union deals with changing times
John Rizzo of Oakbrook Terrace is business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1220, a union of radio and television broadcast engineers. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 28, 2012 4:13PM
CHICAGO — When one thinks of labor unions, strife between management and labor usually comes to mind.
For International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1220, the opposite rings true, more often than not, according to Business Manager John Rizzo.
Rizzo has served as the union’s business manager for three years, working out of an office near the Kennedy Expressway and Cumberland Avenue.
The union represents the broadcast arm of the electrical workers union.
“We’re radio and TV,” he said. “The folks behind the cameras, the engineers.”
In addition to the day-to-day operations of broadcasting, union members work such high-profile assignments as the Super Bowl, the Masters and the World Series, Rizzo said.
The local has a membership of more than 600 spread among 13 midwestern states.
“We used to have more,” Rizzo said.
Times have changed, progressively. Technological advances, more so than the state of the economy, is what gives Rizzo pause for concern.
“TV makes money, no question about that,” he said. “And radio kind of does the same.
“But it’s technology, automation, that just kills us.”
In years past, a station would need to fill up to five positions to produce a show.
With automation, one person can control all manner of jobs.
“It’s robotics,” Rizzo said. “With the new automation system, there’s no tape or camera operators. Any kind of graphic can be inserted, and those don’t have to be anywhere near the studio.”
Depending on the employer, the union negotiates contracts ranging from one- to four-year terms.
Local 1220 has agreements with such local affiliates as WBBM Radio and TV, WGN Radio and TV, WYCC TV and WTTW, as well as national agreements with Fox Sports and CBS.
With one major broadcast outlet, Rizzo has what he termed “a good relationship.”
“We’ve been working with them for years,” he explained. “It’s a relationship that has been built over time.”
Some stations like to play hardball, and others can be downright difficult.
“It all depends on the station,” he said. “It’s easier with the more seasoned (negotiators).”
Union members run the operations at National Football League games as well as for Major League Baseball.
Being in the Midwest works out well for covering baseball.
“There are a lot of teams here,” he said. “You’ve got Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Ohio,” he said.