Know Your Rights
The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America is serious about protecting employees’ rights. If your rights have been violated, union staff can help you file “Unfair Labor Practice” charges with the appropriate labor relations board*.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity. Similarly, labor organizations may not restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights.
Employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA. Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) protects the rights of employees to engage in “concerted activity”, which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.
A few examples of protected concerted activities are:
Two or more employees addressing their employer about improving their pay.
Two or more employees discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other.
An employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.
*The National Labor Relations Board handles most labor issues, but some members are public sector employees who fall under state law. The Illinois Labor Relations Board is the State agency which administers the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, the primary law governing relations between unions and public employers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a union?
Simply put, a union is a group of people working together to improve their work lives through collective bargaining, working together to make decisions about their workplace. Through union membership, workers can impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, and other work-related issues. We have more power collectively than we do as individuals.
Why do we need to form a union? Aren’t there other ways to address our grievances?
Forming a union is the only way we can negotiate a legally binding contract with management that spells out our working conditions for all to see. Without such a contract, our employers can set any terms and conditions of employment they want or terminate us at any time, without cause. Management can change our pay, benefits, or schedules without our input, for instance. If we don’t like it, too bad.
What are the benefits of joining The Chicago NewsGuild?
The NewsGuild is the largest union for news professionals in the country, and The Chicago NewsGuild is a large local, representing nearly 600 journalists and other employees in Chicagoland. Our members work at news organizations such as The Chicago Sun-Times, the Reader, People's World and others. As part of the Communications Workers of America, the Guild accesses a powerful network of more than 700,000 CWA members nationwide.
I work at a digital news company. Don’t you just represent “legacy” journalists?
The NewsGuild has represented digital journalists since 1996. In fact, The NewsGuild of New York was the first union to negotiate a contract for digital journalists, when the New York Times first went “online”. The NewsGuild also won the first-ever digital-only contract when our sister union, The United Media Guild (then the St. Louis Newspaper Guild), organized Truthout in 2009. We’ve come a long way since then, and now represent digital journalists in most of our newsrooms, including at digital-only outlets like The Daily Beast.
While some argue that digital media companies are nothing like traditional news organizations, we firmly believe that the job of a journalist remains the same – whether you work in print, digital, or broadcast. All journalists require fair salaries and working conditions, transparent company policies, and crucially — editorial independence.
What are our legal protections during the organizing process? Can I get fired or retaliated against for helping to organize, signing a union card, or voting “yes” in an election?
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against its employees for coming together to try and improve their working conditions. The National Labor Relations Act gives you the right to organize a union in your workplace. The company is barred from retaliating, threatening, or coercing employees from doing so.
What happens after the union is certified?
Once the NewsGuild is recognized as your bargaining representative, we’ll get to work electing Unit Officers and appointing a Bargaining Committee. We’ll then send out an extensive bargaining survey polling our colleagues on what issues matter the most to them, from big to small. From there we will begin to draft contract proposals and schedule our first meeting with management to negotiate the contract. Once the bargaining committee and management reach a tentative agreement on a contract, employees will vote to accept or reject the contract. Once a majority votes yes for the contract, it is ratified.
What is “Just Cause” and why is it important?
Most workers are “at will” employees, who can be fired for any reason, at any time and without notice. But those covered by “just cause” provisions — a cornerstone of NewsGuild contracts — have the right to correct and/or challenge any alleged job performance issue, because management must have “just cause” before it can fire employees. This is critical for journalists because it gives them the right to openly, but professionally, disagree with their editors on newsroom issues without being subject to unjust reprisals.
What are NewsGuild membership dues, and when will I start paying them?
Membership dues are 1.75 percent of base pay. Dues are not collected until our first contract is ratified. Dues support the work the union does on our behalf, which is often done at significant cost. The amount paid in dues is small in comparison with the higher pay and benefits that are usually gained through collective bargaining.
Won’t unionizing just make the workplace more antagonistic?
Having a union doesn’t mean constantly fighting with our bosses. It gives us a predictable framework for meaningfully addressing issues with management. Every workplace has simmering tensions and occasional flare-ups between managers and their subordinates. The difference is that nonunion workers have no power, while unionized workers have rights.
Sounds great, how do we get started?
To get your union started, the first thing you need to do is talk with colleagues that you know and trust and get an idea of what some of their workplace concerns are. Then you should Contact Us directly (or press the button below!) so a Guild organizer can work directly with you and your colleagues to determine the best way forward.