Frequently Asked Questions
For a lot of us, the idea of having a seat at the table alongside management is a new concept. As we've talked with our colleagues, we've heard many different questions about our goals and the process of forming a union. Here's what you need to know.
Why are journalists at The Virginian-Pilot and the Daily Press organizing a union?
We want to have a unified voice and the ability to advocate for fair compensation, benefits and working conditions. Most importantly, we want to preserve the quality of The Virginian-Pilot and the Daily Press for as long as we can by making this a place where talented people want to continue to work.
Who is leading this?
We are. The staff of The Virginian-Pilot and the Daily Press. Our ever-expanding organizing committee includes new employees, mid-career journalists and senior journalists across multiple departments who want a say in the future of our newsrooms and to leave behind a legacy that will leave this organization better off.
Who can join the union?
Generally, newsroom employees who are not managers.
What could we potentially bargain for?
We will decide as a group what is most important to fight for. After our union is officially formed, we will send out of a survey to staff to determine what we want to prioritize in our contract.
Here are some examples of issues we could negotiate for: newsroom-wide raises; vacation and sick leave; salary minimums based on years of experience; guaranteed overtime pay for working holidays; improved diversity in hiring practices; guaranteed severance pay if laid off; guaranteed minimum amount of overtime for being recalled to work; notification of health care costs in advance; improved parental leave; advance notice of layoffs; buyouts; requiring that someone may only be fired for just and sufficient cause; furloughs to avoid layoffs; improved mileage rates; reimbursement for use of personal equipment - ie. cell phones; the ability to guarantee certain rest periods between shifts; such as not having someone work until midnight and then being required to report to work at 7 a.m.; additional pay for regularly working evening shifts or on weekends; prohibiting employer from scheduling a specific amount of work days without a day off; such as prohibiting 8 consecutive workdays; limits on what type of work can be outsourced; 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.
Can I be punished for supporting the union?
No. It is illegal under federal law to stop employees from organizing a union. The law also doesn’t allow Tronc to question, harass, punish, retaliate or fire employees for participating in any unionizing efforts.
Virginia is a right-to-work state. What does that mean?
People often conflate living in a right-to-work state with thinking it's easier to fire workers for union organizing. This is 100% untrue. Right-to-work means you can have the benefits of a union contract without paying union dues. Non-union workplaces in the U.S. are by definition at-will, which means you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, except in instances which are barred by federal law, such as firing someone because of their race, religion, or gender, or by firing someone for exercising their right to unionize.
What's the deal with union dues?
We would pay union dues. The mandatory minimum rate is 1.3846% of your base salary from each paycheck. No one pays dues until union members have voted to approve a contract that specifies what our pay and benefits will be for the next several years. The dues go toward enforcing the contract with the assistance of News Guild attorneys and professional staff who will join us at the bargaining table. These are the same people who work for the nation’s largest news organizations such as the AP, New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
Virginia is a right to work state. If an employee is opposed to paying dues, he or she does not have to do so. Every employee benefits from the union contract even if the employee doesn’t pay dues. Those who don’t contribute can’t hold office in our union or vote on the contract.
Is it possible we will face pressure from management to not join the union?
Yes. But it is illegal. Employers can’t threaten to take away or reduce your position, salary or benefits because you are participating in a union. Employers also can't make promises to try to get you not to join a union. The Communications Workers of America and The NewsGuild are aware that we are organizing and will do everything they can to protect The Pilot and Daily Press employees.
How salary minimums work
Our goal is to raise salaries for all employees. Our Bargaining Committee, which will consist of our colleagues, would never negotiate to reduce our compensation. Setting minimum salaries would not prevent anyone from negotiating above the minimum salary and nobody’s wages would be reduced so others can be raised. Raises for those who already make more than the minimum the contract requires can also be negotiated. It is common for many employees to make more than the negotiated minimum salaries.
The benefit of having minimum salaries is it guarantees workers will earn more money as they gain more experience and skills. Often the only way for journalists to earn more is to take a job at another news organization. It’s possible we could keep talented journalists longer if we can raise wages. Raising wages would also eliminate incentives to lay off better paid employees simply because their salary is higher than others.