Congressional candidates split on whether they'll cross picket lines at WTTW
Candidates for congressional districts serving the North, West and Northwest suburbs are divided -- almost perfectly along party lines -- as to whether they'll respect a strike by WTTW Channel 11 employees and not participate in election forums or interviews with the station.
Local Union 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, representing technicians, graphic artists and floor crew members, walked out March 16 over work jurisdiction and job protection issues.
The Daily Herald asked more than 40 candidates running for Congress in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 14th districts if they intend to honor the picket lines. About half responded.
All but one of the Democrats who replied said they wouldn't speak with WTTW until the strike is settled. Juan Aguirre, a Chicagoan running in the 3rd District representing parts of Cook and DuPage counties, said he'd appear on WTTW if asked.
Aguirre said he can't decline interviews because "my opponents will do everything in their power to suppress coverage about my candidacy."
Most of the Republicans who replied said they would speak with WTTW despite the strike. Three -- Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso, who's running in the 6th District, Winfield's Justin Burau in the 3rd, and Susan Hathaway-Altman of the Geneva area, who's running in the 11th -- said they wouldn't cross the picket lines.
"I would hope that by the time my interview is scheduled, management and the union will have the issues resolved," Grasso said. "I must respect the situation as a valid dispute and do not intend to participate until it is resolved."
The Chicago Federation of Labor has asked candidates not to participate in Zoom interviews for the station during the strike. WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" news program traditionally interviews statewide and federal candidates as elections approach and producers are planning segments ahead of the June 28 primary election.
In the 6th District, which covers parts of Cook and DuPage counties, incumbent Democrat Sean Casten said he'll respect the strike.
"While I value the mission of public television, I stand with these workers in their fight for fairness," Casten said in a news release.
Democratic challenger Marie Newman of La Grange took a similar position.
"I will not participate in the WTTW 2022 primary election voter guide or any interviews with WTTW until a deal is reached because I believe all workers deserve a workplace that treats them with dignity and respect," said Newman, now the representative for the 3rd District.
A second Democratic challenger in the 6th, Charles Hughes of Chicago, noted he is a union member and won't cross the picket lines.
Sixth District Republican candidate Niki Conforti of Glen Ellyn said she would do interviews with WTTW during the strike.
"It was a hard decision, but the best way I can help those involved in the labor strike is to be in office and work to support their cause," Conforti said. "In order to do that, I have to get my word out."
Max Rice, a Northbrook Republican running in the 9th District, said he would accept any invitation from WTTW.
"As a child, WTTW debates were akin to the Super Bowl," Rice said. "I have to give WTTW credit for fostering my passion and cynicism for local politics."
The 9th District includes parts of Cook, Lake and McHenry counties. Another GOP candidate in the 9th, John Elleson of Arlington Heights, said he hasn't yet decided whether he'll participate in WTTW interviews.
"I have a deep respect for IBEW and the technicians they represent at WTTW," Elleson said. "Since I have a little more time to get back to WTTW with my interview intentions, I will decide at that time if my participation would be a hindrance to the workers and their rights and goals."
Ninth District incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky is a union member and an outspoken union advocate who won't break the picket lines, a spokesman said.
In the 11th District -- encompassing parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties -- Hathaway-Altman was the only one of seven GOP candidates to say she wouldn't cross a picket line at WTTW. Her reason was very personal.
"My deceased father, who was a union pipe fitter and my hero, was my primary role model on the issues of the common worker and collective bargaining, and he certainly would not approve of me crossing picket lines in this situation," she said.
• Daily Herald staff writers Eric Peterson, Christopher Placek and Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.
Which candidates would cross the picket lines at WTTW? The Daily Herald asked more than 40 congressional candidates if they would participate in election forums hosted by Channel 11 or interviews with the station during the current labor strike. Here areThe Daily Herald asked more than 40 congressional candidates if they would participate in election forums hosted by Channel 11 or interviews with the station during the current labor strike. Here are the stances of those who replied:
J. Aguirre (D): Yes
I. Chehade (D): No
G. Villegas (D): No
J. Burau (R): No
M. Quigley (D): No
T. Hanson (R): Yes
M. McGonigal (R): Yes
S. Casten (D): No
C. Hughes (D): No
M. Newman (D): No
N. Conforti (R): Yes
R. Cruz (R): Yes
G. Grasso (R): No
K. Pekau (R): Yes
J. Ahmed (D): No
R. Krishnamoorthi (D): No
C. Dargis (R): Yes
J. Schakowsky (D): No
J. Elleson (R): Undecided
M. Rice (R): Yes
B. Schneider (D): No
J. Severino (R): Yes
B. Foster (D): No
M. Carroll (R): Yes
S. Hathaway-Altman (R): No
L. Underwood (D): No
M. Koolidge (R): Yes
J. Lombardi (R): Yes
J. Milton (R): Declined to comment
Source: Daily Herald interviews