May 20, 2020 – The NewsGuild-CWA has long fought to ensure that journalists and other news employees can work safely, in healthy workplaces free from avoidable hazards. That fight takes on increasing urgency as the nation moves to ‘reopen’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employees have the right under federal law to band together to advocate for safe working conditions and have their concerns heard by their employer. The NewsGuild asserts the following principles as the bedrock rights of all news workers as they pursue the crucial work of keeping our communities informed during this national emergency.
- Preserve employees’ ability to work from home. No one should be forced to return to a workplace or working conditions they deem unsafe.
- Safety first when the workplace reopens. Community infection rates must be on the decline for 14 days before reopening. When the office is open, social distancing requirements must be met. The employer must provide reliable access to personal protective equipment, establish regular disinfection processes for work areas and equipment and consider staggered shifts to minimize office crowding. Safety provisions need to be adjusted as new information emerges.
- Economic security must be safeguarded. No one should suffer loss of pay, time off or benefits as a result of the pandemic.
- Screening and prevention are essential. Anyone entering the workplace should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Employees must be restricted from working sick and encouraged to self-identify when they have symptoms. The employer should track possible and known infections and maintain accurate records to enable contact tracing.
- Personal concerns must be addressed. Childcare, family care, school schedules, commuting practices and the care of at-risk family members are all in flux and will require flexibility as people return to the workplace.
The function of producing the news is vital to our democracy, especially during this pandemic. Adequate protection of media workers ensures the public can be fully informed of the government’s response to the pandemic and all the other news that affects our communities.
Journalists who work under a NewsGuild contract are encouraged to check it for the terms that govern safe workplaces, but whether they are covered by a union contract or not, all employees have the right to call upon their employer to maintain a safe working environment.
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