Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we organizing a union?
We are organizing a union because we want a voice in our company. As the company grows ever larger in scale, we want to make sure we get fair representation. We are reporters, photographers and copy editors who have made your communities home. And we want to ensure that we can continue to do so.
Who is leading this?
Reporters, photographers and copy editors at the Capital, the Carroll County Times and the Baltimore Sun Media Group. We are the people who write, edit and produce the news our communities rely on every day.
Who can join?
Anyone in any of our three units who is not a manager. If you have questions about whether you are eligible, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the process and timeline?
More than 70 percent of each of our three newsrooms has already signed confidential authorization cards declaring our wish to be represented by a union.
The cards simply prove our union has overwhelming support in the newsroom. The language on the card is legally required and says the following:
“I designate Local 32035 of the NewsGuild-CWA my agent in collective bargaining, and authorize Local 32035 of The NewsGuild-CWA to represent me before any Board, Court, Committee or other Tribunal in any matter involving collective bargaining, and I authorize Local 32025 of The NewsGuild-CWA to represent me in adjusting any grievances I may have in connection with my employment.”
With an overwhelming majority of cards, negotiations with Tribune could begin immediately.
We are asking Tribune for voluntary recognition. If they decline to recognize us, we will file with the National Labor Relations Board to trigger an election. After we win an election, we’ll be officially recognized by the NLRB and can negotiate a contract.
The election would be administered independently by the NLRB, and the ballots are secret. The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild will be officially recognized as our collective bargaining agent with a simple majority vote.
After the vote passes, Tribune is legally required to negotiate with us in good faith over our pay, benefits, and working conditions. During this time Tribune cannot change our wages, benefits or working conditions without first giving notice and an opportunity to bargain, and negotiating with us in good faith.
A bargaining committee – comprised of negotiators from the NewsGuild and elected representatives from the newsroom – will be responsible for negotiating our contracts. The committee will survey the whole newsroom on our priorities and ideas for the contracts. They will be responsible for communicating with us throughout the negotiation process.
Once our bargaining committee and Tribune have agreed to a contract, we all vote to ratify it. If the vote doesn’t pass, we go back to table. We wouldn’t pay any union dues until a contract is ratified.
What happens in between filing for a union election and a contract agreement? Could the company change my working conditions during contract negotiations?
After we are recognized by the NLRB, and before and during negotiations, the company must maintain the status quo when it comes to our working conditions and wages. Without a bargaining agreement, management has to give notice and negotiate changes that affect the terms and conditions of our work. The company may hire outside consultants and anti-union lawyers, and we will probably have to sit through anti-union meetings. But we will continue to support each other and stand up for our rights throughout the process.
What kind of things can we bargain for?
It’s up to us, the employees, to decide what we want to put on the bargaining table. There are no guarantees we will get everything we want, but we will work hard to get the compensation, benefits and working conditions we deserve. Here are just a few of the many things we can work for.
Salary step increases
Health care for part-time employees
Seniority-based severance pay
Job security protections
Temporary transfer pay (for employees filling in for jobs at a higher pay classification)
Guild representation in grievance resolution
How will this affect our relationship with Baltimore Sun staff?
One of the first surprises when new employees start at our papers is the relationship with the Baltimore Sun.
We are part of the same company. We share many resources. Some of us even share a building and a website with the Sun, and our press passes identify us as Baltimore Sun employees.
But new employees learn quickly: Just because we work together does not mean we can talk to each other.
This unwritten rule, the “wall” between unionized and non-unionized employees, is widely rumored to be imposed by the union. This is false. The wall is a rule from the top, and though nobody will say it out loud we can guess why: If we talked to the Sun, they might argue we should be absorbed into their union.
We hope our unique mission, reporting local news, will remain distinct from the Sun, a regional publication. But being able to speak directly with our colleagues at the Sun as we share resources and cover the same stories will save everyone a lot of time.
Can Tribune or our managers retaliate against us for supporting the union?
Federal law ensures your right to organize and improve your working conditions. It is illegal for the company to fire, punish or harass you for activities such as attending union meetings, signing a union card, encouraging others to sign cards or talking to others about the union as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work. It is also illegal for the company to interfere with organizing efforts, threaten workers involved in union activity or question them about their involvement. If that happens, contact an organizer immediately. (See NLRB Section 7 Rights for more details.)
You are more protected from retaliation if there is proof you were part of an organizing effort. If you try to be an invisible supporter and you face retaliation anyway, it will be harder to prove management was aware of your views and punished you because of them.
Regardless of what the company’s anti-union campaign looks like, we’ll fight back with you. The NewsGuild will aggressively represent those targeted for involvement in the organizing efforts.
What will management say about the union? Is it true?
Management is likely to use certain tactics – including one-on-one meetings, anti-union emails and letters and even other employees – to convince union members and others that the union does not have employee interest in mind. This is false. The union is employees. We have a say over what our union fights for, regardless of what management might argue.
The only bad that can come from a union is the bad that management creates.
Management may also be open to voluntary recognition after a card check that shows overwhelming support for unionizing.
How does this affect supervisors?
Managers, unfortunately, cannot join the union. This does not mean we are organizing against our direct management. The editors of our respective papers are passionate, caring, competent journalists. We look to them for guidance and support, and will continue to do so.
What about union dues?
Union dues are about 1.4 percent of yearly salary. We won’t pay a dime until we have a contract.
Can Tribune even afford to compensate us better?
We say they can.
Tribune CEO Justin Dearborn took home $8.1 million in 2016, according to SEC filings.
Ross Levinsohn, the former publisher of the Los Angeles Times who has been accused of sexual misconduct, made $6.9 million in 2017. He is now CEO of Tribune Interactive.
Meanwhile, after stepping down due to his own sexual harassment allegations, Tribune’s former chairman Michael Ferro is still getting $5 million each year until 2020 for “consulting” services.
Let’s put this in perspective: If Tribune used the compensation of just one of these men to pay the journalists who produce its content every day, the company could double the salaries of as many as 200 people. For those of us struggling to make ends meet, that would be a godsend.
This year, Tribune sold the L.A. times and San Diego Union-Tribune to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500 million.
When that sale closed, the Chicago Tribune reported, Dearborn said the company would use the cash to “further reinvest in our business and enhance our capabilities to continue to deliver world-class journalism.”
We hope we can take him at his word.