Why are employees at The Morning Call organizing a union?
We want to have a unified voice and the ability to advocate for regular pay raises, better health benefits and more diversity that reflects the communities we cover. We hope to create more stability in this turbulent industry. Most importantly, we want to preserve the quality of The Morning Call by making this a place where talented people want to build careers.
We believe that creating a stronger workplace will result in a stronger newspaper that is better able to serve the Lehigh Valley.
Who is leading this?
We are. Our ever-expanding organizing committee includes new employees, mid-career and senior employees across multiple departments who want a say in the future of our newsroom.
Who can join the union?
All staff, whether salaried or hourly, part time or full time. Federal law prohibits supervisors, employees who handle confidential information and independent contractors from joining unions.[caption caption="On Thursday, Feb. 28, we wore red to show our solidarity and resolve." align="left"]
What will our union bargain for?
We will democratically decide what is most important to include in our contract, based on current working conditions. Our union will create a bargaining committee charged with engaging with every member of our staff to determine our collective priorities.
Tribune Publishing will be obligated to bargain with us around many important issues: compensation, vacation and sick time are just the start. We can advance reasonable proposals such as salary minimums based on years of experience; guaranteed overtime pay for working holidays; improved diversity in hiring practices; severance pay for laid off staff; solid, affordable health insurance; improved parental leave; requiring that someone may only be fired for just and sufficient cause through a fair, progressive system of discipline; improved mileage rates; reasonable click quotas; common-sense commission goals, reimbursement for use of personal equipment - ie. cell phones; rest periods between shifts; compensation for working nights and weekends; prohibiting unhealthful scheduling; requiring laid off employees to be offered jobs before others and requiring the company to move laid off employees into positions they’re qualified for, among many others.
Who actually does the negotiating?
A negotiating committee made of our colleagues will be created once we have certification for our union at The Morning Call. We’ll have help from both the local and national NewsGuild who are experts in facilitating negotiations.
At other Tribune papers where staffs are currently negotiating, management has brought in labor relations people and counsel to represent them in this process. They’re typically joined by one member of local management.
How long will it take to negotiate a contract? What happens in between forming a union and signing a contract? What if we’re sold?
Negotiations take time. But when we are unified and active in pursuing our priorities, a contract can be completed within a reasonable period - a year is not uncommon for first contracts.
Once our union is certified, we’ll enjoy “status quo protections.” All of our current working conditions must be maintained, all changes must be negotiated moving forward until we ratify our first contract, which establishes the new status quo.
In the case of a sale, the new owners would have the ability to set a new status quo, from which we would then negotiate our contract. As long as more than half of current employees remain at The Morning Call, our union will stay in place.
Can I be punished for supporting the union?
No. Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against or otherwise coercing employees during the exercise of their right to organize a union. This includes surveillance, questioning, intimidation or otherwise attempting to hinder organizing efforts.
Would I have to join the union if one is formed?
We want a union shop, which would require all employees to join. This would facilitate a stronger union with all employees contributing dues. Open shops make organizations more vulnerable to union busting, thus weakening our ability to secure strong contract language. All employees in both union and open shops are subject to the terms of the agreement.
What's the deal with union dues?
Union dues come out of your paycheck only after we ratify our first collective bargaining agreement. We will be joining the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, where dues are 1.5 percent.
Dues will not be paid until we approve a contract. Dues go toward maintaining our union and enforcing our contract. NewsGuild attorneys and professional staff will help us to establish our own democratic organization, assist us at the bargaining process, and support us into the future. We are joining the union that represents the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, Baltimore Sun, the Virginian-Pilot, Capital Gazette and many others.
Is it possible we will face pressure from management to not join the union?
We expect pushback from corporate leadership -- but we will be ready for it. We also expect Tribune Publishing to respect our wishes and federal law. The NewsGuild, part of the Communications Workers of America, have helped us to organize and will do everything they can to protect Morning Call employees.
Are my potential raises going to get squashed for the benefit of giving raises to everyone else?
Our goal is to raise salaries for all employees. Setting minimum salaries does not prevent individuals from negotiating higher rates. It is very common for unionized employees to negotiate salaries for themselves higher than the minimum for themselves.
Establishing salary minimums guarantees that everyone will earn more money over time. Often the only way for journalists to earn more is to take a job at another news organization. It’s likely that The Morning Call might retain more talented staff longer if we can raise wages - and we’ll all derive protection from knowing that new staff will not be hired below the wage floor we establish.
Each contract will be voted on by all members of the union.
How did this whole thing start?
The current media environment is unstable, and unionization is the only way we can have a voice in our workplace. A group of colleagues got together and reached out to the NewsGuild to help develop a plan to build an authentic, collective organization.
What’s the NewsGuild-CWA?
The NewsGuild-CWA represents over 20,000 journalists and other media workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The Communications Workers of America is a national union and the umbrella organization for The NewsGuild.
Are other Pennsylvania papers unionized?
The staffs of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, Delaware County Times, Pottstown Mercury, Norristown Times Herald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, York Daily Record and York Dispatch are all NewsGuild members.
In the last year I’ve seen a lot of stories about newsrooms organizing. Is it common for a union to include newsroom, advertising and circulation employees in one unit?
It’s common for newspaper unions to include everyone who contributes to the production of the paper. For example, all of the bargaining groups in the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia are wall-to-wall, as is our sister paper the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, Toledo Blade in Ohio, the recently-unionized Daily Hampshire Gazette and Valley Advocate in Massachusetts and many more.
The more people we have in our union, the more seriously the company will have to take us. We’ll have more information about the newspaper to leverage at the bargaining table. We also want to be confident that when we say, “The Morning Call is a great place to work,” we mean it for all employees.
I have an individual workplace problem, workflow issue, workers compensation claim, etc. Can I still talk to my supervisor directly? What changes with the union?
You can resolve issues as they arise in exactly the same way as you do now, if you so choose. If you don’t want to speak to management alone, the union difference is having the option to seek help from trained colleagues and NewsGuild staff if and when you need it. With a union, we can feel secure in knowing that our issues will be addressed. We can take collective action to resolve our problems. You will also have access to grievance procedure to ensure your issue is resolved.
Does this mean it’s impossible for managers to get rid of people?
No. Typically, contracts establish a fair, transparent disciplinary system to identify and address work performance issues in a productive way. Management will have a procedure through which they can discipline and even terminate employees where appropriate.
How does seniority work in union contracts? Does that mean that less senior staff would be at risk?
Many union contracts use seniority as a neutral metric to ensure that management treats everyone fairly, for example, during layoffs. While no method is perfect, we will negotiate a fair process with management that is far better than having no process at all. We will determine what we bargain for, so we will decide together how to best advance a metric of this kind during the bargaining process (or not).
Didn’t The Morning Call have a union before? How will this union be different from the last?
In its former iteration, the NewsGuild represented only newsroom employees in the Allentown office and weakened over time. We will be including all Morning Call employees across departments and bureaus, making us stronger.
This union will be built on a foundation of democracy and broad involvement.
I like my manager and think he or she would be interested in joining. Is that possible?
Supervisors are not eligible for union membership under federal law. The National Labor Relations Act defines a supervisor as “any individual having authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibility to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action, if in connection with the foregoing the exercise of such authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment.