Aug. 16, 2019 – The Sector Election and Referendum Committee referred to the Executive Council three questions posed by a candidate regarding eligibility to vote in the Guild’s pending presidential election. The Executive Council takes up these questions as an exercise of the responsibility assigned to it under Article IX, Section 9 of the Guild Constitution.
These questions and the EC’s answers may assist other members in understanding the voting requirements, so this exchange is offered to help members fully understand their dues obligations with regard to enfranchisement in the re-run election.
Question 1: Can members who are in the Guild, but not yet protected by a contract and not yet paying dues pay one month’s worth of dues voluntarily to NewsGuild HQ at a rate of 1.38%?
Article XIII, Section 7(a) of the Guild Constitution requires that members pay dues to the Guild Local that negotiates their contract or in the area of their principal employment. That means members must pay the dues rate established by their own Guild local, which cannot be less than the constitutional minimum of 1.3846%. Section 8 of that same Article allows members of units not currently affiliated with a Guild local to pay dues as at-large members directly to TNG headquarters. The Executive Council has fixed the applicable dues rate for at-large members at the Constitutional minimum of 1.3846%.
The right to vote in Guild Sector elections is a privilege of dues-paying good standing membership. The SERC has set the constitutional eligibility period for the rerun election as membership in good standing for June, July or August based on September 16 dues remittances. However, Guild members are expected to remain in good standing and not to seek to game the system by becoming a dues paying member for one month and then refusing to pay any further monthly dues. A member remains in good standing if they are not more than one month in arrears in their constitutional obligations. Members who lose good standing and remain delinquent for an additional month are automatically suspended and may be expelled.
Pursuant to Article XXII, Section 6(f), the SERC can remove from the official eligibility lists the names of those who have withdrawn from the Guild, or who have been expelled or dropped from the Guild, including those expelled or dropped for dues delinquency.
Question 2: Can members who are in the Guild, but not yet protected by a contract and not yet paying dues join the at-large/freelance units of Canadian Media Guild, Pacific Media Workers or Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild for one month?
Article II, Section 3(c) of the Guild Constitution limits Freelance members to those who work in Guild jurisdiction (as defined in Article II, Section 2,) but who do not have collective bargaining rights, or who work on an independent contractor basis, or who are otherwise outside of a traditional employment relationship. Therefore, members in a traditional employment relationship, or those with collective bargaining rights are not eligible for freelance membership.
Moreover, as noted above, Article XIII, Section 7(a) requires membership in the geographically proximate local (the local that negotiates the member’s contract, or where the member is primarily employed.) Members in areas where no local exists can become at-large members pursuant to Article XIII, Section 8. Members are not permitted to pick and choose which local to join.
Question 3: Can members working in a shop not under Guild contract and earning $50 per week or more pay dues not less than $2.50 a month? (NewsGuild-CWA Constitution Article XVIII Section 2(e)8)
In setting local dues rates, Guild Locals must comply with the minimum dues rate set forth in Article XVIII, Sections 2(b) and (c) of the Guild Constitution. The minimum dues rate was adopted at Guild Convention to ensure that monthly dues generates sufficient revenue to enable proper and effective representation of the Guild membership, given the considerable expense of organizing, collective bargaining and contract administration.
Article XVIII, Section 2(e) provides limited exceptions to the minimum dues rate. But those exceptions apply where a member is either unemployed or minimally employed, or where there are no collective bargaining rights or no anticipated expenses relating to ongoing and normal Guild membership servicing.
Article XVIII, Section 2(e)(8), which allows for a monthly dues rate of no less than $2.50 for members “working in a shop not under Guild contract” and earning at least $50.00 per week, has been historically applied only to non-Guild shops where a member is working for an employer with no Guild collective bargaining relationship and thus no anticipation of the expense of normal membership servicing. The exception has never been applied to a newly organized unit, given the considerable expense of negotiating an initial contract.
Nor has the provision been interpreted literally to apply to each “shop not under Guild contract.” Units with expired contracts, and units that have lost their contracts through asset sales or in bankruptcy, have never been permitted to pay a $2.50 dues rate; those units must continue to pay at least the minimum dues rate set by Article XVIII, Sections 2(b) and (c) – precisely to ensure adequate dues revenue to allow effective collective bargaining on behalf of the membership. That same reasoning applies fully to newly organized shops negotiating their first contract.
Therefore, Guild locals must comply with the minimum dues rate set by Article XVIII, Sections 2(b) and (c) with regard to all newly organized units, including those without an initial Guild contract. And all Guild members in newly organized units must pay at least the constitutional minimum dues in order to become members in good standing who may enjoy the full rights and privileges of Guild membership.