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“The Washington Post” Union Launches a Membership Drive to Encourage More to Join
After five buyouts, union membership has fallen below 40 percent. By Harry Jaffe
Comments () | Published September 24, 2012

The Washington Post union, facing falling membership, has launched a membership drive called Feel the Guild.

Guild newsroom leader Fred Kunkle said in a memo that union membership has fallen below 40 percent, so “we need you more than ever.”

The Post’s guild has been feeling the pain ever since legendary publisher Katharine Graham broke the printers’ strike in the 1970s. Without the threat of closing down the paper, the union lost its punch. Still, the Guild has been negotiating decent contracts for the Post’s newsroom; reporters are comparatively well paid and enjoy generous benefits.

Depleted by five buyouts, the Post newsroom has lost many union members, which has led to the Guild’s plea.

“We’re not saying the Post isn’t a great company with decent owners,” Kunkle wrote. “But it’s still a big business, and its interests don’t always coincide with ours. That’s why we need a union.”

Here’s the memo:

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Folks,

Imagine for a moment that the Washington Post no longer had a union. What would happen? You wouldn’t have to pay dues anymore. You wouldn’t have to avert your eyes when members ask you to join. You could just keep looking out for No. 1, safe in the belief that a paternalistic company would watch out for your best interests. One of the world’s finest newspapers would still land on people’s doorsteps or show up on computer screens every day.

But if there were no union, something else would happen. Like nonunion employees everywhere, you would see your pay erode. So would your benefits. You would have no due process in a disciplinary proceeding and no job security. You would come to work wondering whether it might be your last because you spoke your mind in front of your boss, you weren’t able to sell twice as many ads as last year, or your editor decided that you don’t write so well after all. You might find your job outsourced for a contractor and little more than a thank you when you depart. The days when employees negotiated buyouts would be long gone.

If you think this can’t happen, think again. After so many rounds of buyouts, our membership has dropped.

We’re not saying the Post isn’t a great company with decent owners. But it’s still a big business, and its interests do not always coincide with ours. That’s why we need a union. And with our membership now below 40 percent, we need you more than ever.

That’s also why we are launching a company-wide membership drive called “Feel the Guild.” Over the next month or so, we will be spreading the word through emails, bulletins, Facebook, Twitter and face-to-face meetings about the importance of joining. Every new member will receive a $50 gift card, and every member who recruits someone else will receive a $25 incentive. Those who recruit five new members will receive an additional $100.

But it’s not all about the money. Here are some reasons you should join:

• Hard-won job protections ensure that the company cannot just dump you on the street. Without the Guild, the Post would become an “at will” workplace where a manager could end your career without due process.

• At a time when other news media have shed jobs, imposed furloughs or cut pay, the Guild bargained for a $13 a week raise for everybody in the unit. Each person also received a $1,200 lump sum.

• The Guild has fought to maintain or expand health and other benefits, such as family leave. We have pushed back against the Post’s attempt to charge people for every BlackBerry that broke and challenged attempts to restrict book leaves.

• As the Post becomes more aggressive in using highly subjective employee evaluations as a pretext to force people out, the Guild has fought to protect people from arbitrary and unfair dismissal. Over the past year alone, the Guild took two cases to arbitration, one in the newsroom and the other in advertising.

The Guild has always been a passionate voice for its members. We count many editors and supervisors as friends, and we want the Post to succeed. But we also advocate for what’s best for our membership and the newspaper, reminding top management of the ideals we all hold dear. Join us.

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Posted at 03:40 PM/ET, 09/24/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs