Newsletter: Constitutional improvements in front of Saturday’s Sector Conference

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This Saturday we’ve got the 2021 NewsGuild Sector Conference. It’s our biennial conference where elected delegates set policies for our union, pass resolutions, amend our constitution and nominate officers.

Because of the pandemic it made sense to move this year’s conference to a virtual one and it will get started at 10 a.m. ET Saturday. I expect about 100 folks from all over the NewsGuild to attend. This year’s primary agenda will focus on some major changes to our constitution governing our elections. These proposed improvements will make sure that every member gets notified of their ability to be eligible to vote and that members get ballots delivered by mail until the U.S. Dept. of Labor allows electronic voting.

I support all of these changes, along with the rest of our Executive Council. Nominations will also be made to fill the Region 2 Vice President seat left vacant by Steve Cook’s resignation in May. If the constitutional changes are adopted we’ll also have nomination and election of the Sector Election and Referendum Committee, which oversees competitive elections in our union.

Resolutions will also be in front of the delegates to establish a lower minimum dues rate for members working for first contracts, supportings CWA’s SMART resolution, requiring all Guild local officers to take anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training, expanding the virtual contract campaign and steward training for members and remembering the local leaders and staff we’ve lost since January 2019.

We’ll also be announcing a new logo that was adopted by the Executive Council last week. Now we just need to get it on some bomber jackets!

It’ll be my first Sector Conference as Guild President and I’m very excited for it! I wish we were all able to gather in person, but it’ll be good to see so many Guild folks online! Read more information in September’s official call.

Troubles continue to mount for Gannett after The NewsGuild of New York filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board challenging the company’s union-busting tactics at three publications in the company’s Atlantic Region. The complaint details how managers threatened adverse consequences if workers supported the union organizing effort at the Asbury Park Press, Home News Tribune and Courier News. Workers at the publications are organizing with the NY Guild as the APP-MCJ Guild.

The complaint also details how the company attempted to unilaterally initiate new return-to-office policies, which are a mandatory subject of bargaining.

The Unfair Labor Practice charge comes amid nationwide outrage over extensive unpaid overtime at the largest news chain and the “culture of exploitation” the company fosters.

Gannett journalists have rejected the company’s denials that unpaid overtime is widespread, and Gannett settled a class-action lawsuit with call center employees over the issue earlier this year for $650,000. If you’re a Gannett employee and you haven’t done so already, please complete our questionnaire on unpaid overtime.

There are stronger protections now in place for journalists covering protests in California. Over the weekend Gov. Newsom signed Senate Bill 98, which adds a new section to the state penal code that says journalists may enter closed areas around demonstrations, marches, protests and rallies. It also states that police shall not intentionally assault, interfere with, or obstruct journalists covering such events and it bars police from citing journalists for failing to disperse. The Media Guild of the West and Pacific Media Workers worked together with other journalism organizations to pressure the governor to sign the legislation. I followed their amazing leadership by sending a letter to Newsom on Friday.

Voice Media Guild members got a contract. Workers at the sister publications Miami New Times and Phoenix New Times ratified their first collective bargaining agreement last week. After 10 months of bargaining, they secured some hard-fought workplace protections, including minimum pay for new employees at $42,000 per year, regular pay increases, just cause protections, severance, an increase in vacation time for new workers from five to 10 days per year and more.

Staffers at the alt-weeklies join a growing list of NewsGuild-CWA units to win first collective bargaining agreements. The Miami staffers are part of CWA Local 3108 in Florida and the Phoenix group is part of Media Guild of the West Local 39213.

Developers at the San Francisco Chronicle won their union election on Thursday to become part of the San Francisco Chronicle Guild and the Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521 after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that they had the right to join the existing San Francisco Guild unit.

The NLRB decision confirmed what the Chronicle newsroom and the Guild members across the country have known for quite some time: The developers share a community of interest with their coworkers.

The developers’ victory is the latest win by tech workers, who are unionizing in large numbers at tech companies and in smaller numbers among developers and others who want to become part of their newsroom unions. CODE-CWA notes that about 2,000 tech workers have unionized in the last few years, with the Alphabet Workers Union, Mapbox Workers Union, Voltage Organized Workers and others. Last year, developers at the Seattle Times joined their long-unionized colleagues in the Pacific Northwest Local of The NewsGuild-CWA.

Workers at The Appeal marked a milestone last week when they officially took control of the publication a little more than three months after management abruptly shut it down. It now operates as a worker-led nonprofit newsroom.

Staffers were determined to save the highly regarded news outlet, which exposes the failures of the U.S. criminal justice system. The workers, who had announced just six week earlier that they were forming a unit of The NewsGuild, immediately negotiated with management to secure the right to relaunch as a worker-led outlet – along with a generous severance package.

They worked as volunteers through a transition period as they reorganized and raised money. They retain The Appeal’s name and the rights to their work, but say they are an entirely new entity. They are asking supporters to contribute to their effort. Please donate if you can.

Workers at The Sault Star ratified a new collective bargaining agreement last week that gives them wage gains after many years of miniscule increases or none at all.

The members of CWA Canada Local 30746, the Sault Ste. Marie Typographical Union, will receive a 1% increase in each of the three years of the contract. They work in editorial, advertising and reader sales and service.

In addition, the top rate for editorial staff will be bumped up by $25 a week, bringing them closer to parity with their unionized colleagues at two other publications owned by Postmedia.

CWA Canada and IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, welcome a proposed settlement of a class-action complaint that would result in Cineflix paying workers at least $1 million and possibly signing a collective bargaining agreement that would be a first in “factual TV,” which Americans call “reality TV.”

The agreement follows three years of negotiations.

The $1 million would compensate nearly all Cineflix employees and so-called “independent contractors” for overtime pay, vacation pay and holiday pay since October 2016.

Cineflix has until March to decide whether to sign the collective bargaining agreement, which has already been negotiated, or pay an additional lump sum. The contract includes big improvements, including minimum pay scales, overtime pay, vacation pay, holiday pay, meal breaks, travel time, health and safety requirements, and other provisions.

CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said the deal “shows the power of coming together to fight for what’s right.”

CWA Canada called on law enforcement officials to urgently investigate a rash of “vile sexist and racist comments and threats” and prosecute those responsible last week.

“Journalism is a pillar of democracy,” CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said. “If journalists feel threatened doing their jobs, important stories may go untold, and democracy is undermined.”

“As journalism goes, so goes democracy.”

Next Thursday, Oct. 21, is Latina Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes the fact that in the U.S., Latinas must work well into 2021 to catch up to what white men earned in 2020.

Please circle your calendar to join the Guild as we mark the day by joining a Twitter storm at 2 p.m. EST (11 a.m. PT; 12 p.m. MT; and 1 p.m. CT).

Pay inequities are rampant in our newsrooms. Studies conducted by our units at news organizations consistently reveal troubling facts: Women and people of color are paid less on average than their white, male counterparts.

Guild training sessions are getting rave reviews! Use the links below to register:
Steward Module 4: Problem Solving – 6-8 p.m. ET, Wed., Oct. 13
Labor Law 101 – 6-8:30 p.m. ET, Wed., Oct. 2
Building to a Strike to Beat the Boss – 6:30-8 p.m. ET, Mon., Oct. 25
Steward Module 5: Rights of a Steward – 6-8 p.m. ET, Wed., Oct. 27

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, NewsGuild-CWA