Last week was rough, with a new wave of furloughs, pay cuts and layoffs of journalists working hard to bring essential local news to their communities.
That means our work to #SaveTheNews is even more urgent. Support is growing for our news industry stimulus campaign. The NewsGuild is working tirelessly to build bipartisan backing.
Our efforts are getting attention:
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, newspapers representing more than 80% of U.S. circulation are disqualified from receiving support under the Paycheck Protection Program. The Guild and many others are pushing to change that.
“This is a crisis and an emergency. We need to make sure that we continue to operate for ourselves but also for our communities because they depend on us so much,” NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss told CBS News for an April 23 story.
News-gathering operations are essential for a well-functioning society, especially in times of crisis.
However, many newsrooms have been reduced to skeletal staffs and some have disappeared altogether.
A bust of Joseph Pulitzer wears a mask in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newsroom. (Photo by David Carson)
Declining advertising revenue, leveraged corporate consolidations, and asset stripping by vulture capitalists have put this industry under financial duress. Now the physical distancing designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 is triggering business slowdowns and further eroding advertising revenues.
The NewsGuild Executive Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for federal, state, provincial, and local governments to provide public funds to sustain news operations.
Public stimulus funds are quite possibly the only way to ensure long-term viability for these vital news-gathering operations.
Any plan must include:
Acknowledgement that accurate, reliable local, regional and national journalism is an essential service that provides life-saving information in this crisis.
Public financing for journalism
The federal government should establish a publicly-financed fund to support newsrooms and media workers to prevent layoffs.
Such a fund would also serve to promote journalism in news deserts in all 50 states and territories to supplement or fund additional positions in private-sector news organizations, but not be used to replace existing employees. This fund would also support independent reporting in partnership with other news organizations.
The fund should be regulated to ensure news organizations remain independent and workers should be involved in any such public funding mechanism.
Any employer taking public funds must:
Remain independent from partisan influence
Demonstrate financial need and report on how they used the funding later on.
Be prohibited from using public money for executive bonuses, dividends or stock buybacks for five years. Any company taking public funds may not allow executive bonuses, stock options, or golden parachutes for five years. Executive compensation should be capped at twice that of the editor in chief.
Be prohibited for five years from engaging in mergers and acquisition activity or leveraged buyouts that result in job losses or pay reductions.
Adhere to the terms of public financing or be subject to a claw back of any public funds, including interest and penalties.
No layoffs, no furloughs, no buyouts or pay cuts
In this crisis it’s essential that we invest in and retain journalists and other media workers, especially in local communities where Americans need to know when schools and businesses are open, where testing centers are and what the current case and death totals are. The financialization of the industry has reduced the number of journalists available to share life-saving information during this crisis. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Workers’ rights must be recognized and supported
Any employer taking public funds must not interfere with union organizing campaigns and should be prohibited from hiring anti-union consultants for the purposes of quashing worker organizing drives. These employers should be barred from forcing employees to attend mandatory anti-union meetings on work time. Employers should be required to accept third-party voluntary recognition if a majority of the bargaining unit signs authorization cards.
Any employer taking public funds should be required to agree to interest arbitration for first contracts for newly organized units.
Further, any employer taking public funds (and any successors) will not abrogate existing collective bargaining agreements, as well as tentative agreements and expired CBAs, in whole or in part, for at least five years after receiving public funding, or two years after completing repayment of any loan. Any employer negotiating a first or successor collective bargaining agreement shall remain committed to bargaining in good faith to quickly reach an agreement.
Promote diversity and equity
In the interest of supporting and advancing diversity, any employer taking public funds should be required to implement plans intended to advance diversity across their staff and report their annual diversity statistics.
Board seats for employees
Any employer owned by public corporations or private equity firms taking public funds should be required to designate one quarter of Board seats to be held by non-management employees, who will be selected by mutual agreement between labor and management.
Loans for non-profit startups
The Small Business Administration should make available an indefinite program of no-interest loans for the creation of news start-ups, including nonprofits and employee-owned co-ops.
Any plan must further assist the news industry by:
Making tax-deductible the cost of subscriptions for any news product.
Providing incentives for local ownership to encourage chains to sell to local owners and community interests.
Establishing a nationwide advertising purchasing program to promote public health, participation in the federal census and other topics of national interest.
TO: All Local Presidents, Secretaries, Treasurers and Administrative Officers
FROM: Marian Needham, Executive Vice President
DATE: Oct. 30, 2019
RE: ELECTION ADVISORY issued by the Sector Election and Referendum Committee (SERC)
The Sector Election and Referendum Committee advises locals that federal law prohibits the use of union or employer funds to promote or criticize any candidate for union office. This prohibition applies to all expenditures and resources, including use of facilities, equipment, supplies, paid working time, computers, and email systems. It further includes a prohibition on promoting or criticizing an individual’s candidacy in a union newspaper or by use of any union’s letterhead or other stationery paid for by union funds or bearing the union’s seal or insignia.
Legal risks adhere when this prohibition is not minded. The SERC therefore instructs locals to proceed with caution in dealing with candidate endorsements and criticisms. In all instances, locals should seek to ensure that union funds are not used to endorse or criticize union candidates.
Canadian locals should be aware that the federal law as described herein applies equally to Canadian locals, because this is an international election.
The following is intended to provide guidance and answer questions. If a local is unable to determine whether a particular action is permitted, it should consult with the SERC through the EVP’s office.
1. Can a local union promote, or criticize, a particular candidate in the local newsletter?
No. Federal law prohibits the use of union funds to either promote or criticize a particular candidate for union office. Since the union newsletter is produced with local funds, the local executive body’s candidate endorsement should not be printed in the newsletter.
2. Can a local union promote, or criticize, a particular candidate on the local website?
No. The website, like a union newsletter, is paid for with union funds. Federal law prohibits the use of union funds to promote a particular candidate for union office. A local may not use its website to promote or criticize a particular candidate.
3. Can a local union promote, or criticize, a particular candidate on the local’s Facebook page, or another “free” social networking site?
No. While federal election authorities have not yet decided whether a locally sponsored Facebook page (or another “free” social networking tool) is itself a “union asset” rendering endorsement or criticism of a candidate thereon impermissible, the SERC has concluded that locals should not promote or criticize candidates on their Facebook pages.
4. Can a local union nonetheless allow Guild members to post statements on the local website or Facebook page to promote or criticize candidates?
Yes. Guild locals are permitted, but not required to allow all members (including local officers, in their individual member capacity) to post statements on the local’s website and/or Facebook page etc. to promote or criticize candidates. A local may limit access to these communication sites solely to its own local membership. But if a local permits access to any other Guild member outside of the local, it must permit access to all Guild members. If a local decides to grant this equal access to all local members, or to Guild members outside the local to post campaign statements, it is recommended that the Local give at least two days advance written notice of its adopted policy on its website and/or Facebook page. If the adopted policy allows postings by members outside the particular Local, the Local should provide similar advance notice to the candidates by email as well.
Should a local elect to permit such campaign statements on the part of members, it should include a prominent disclaimer on the applicable web/Facebook page clarifying that the views expressed by members are those of individuals, and not views expressed or endorsed by the local. The local must further ensure that access is granted equally to all local members (and all Guild members, if the local chooses to allow non-local member access) and that members can freely promote or criticize any, and all, candidates.
Sample Disclaimer Statement: Any view expressed on this site related to the Guild election for President, or the candidates seeking that position, are those of the individuals who have posted the statements. They are not views expressed or posted by the (insert local name), nor does (insert local name) endorse or otherwise support any particular view posted by any such individual.
5. Can a local union restrict candidate access to its website, Facebook page, Twitter feed or social media platform to campaign, promote or criticize candidates, when the candidate’s election opponent has such access by virtue of his membership in the local?
No. If a candidate has access to a local’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed or other social media platform to promote or criticize candidates in the election, then the local must permit the same access to his opponent. The local should provide advance notice of this opportunity to each candidate and grant each candidate equal access to and use of the site. The SERC suggests at least two days advance notice be given to all candidates before a local allows access and use by the candidates of its website or Facebook page, etc..
6. Can a local that elects to allow individuals to promote or criticize candidates on its website, Facebook page, or other social media platform restrict the content of such promotion or criticism?
No. Although a local can limit the length of partisan statements (equal limits applied to all), it cannot regulate or censor the content of such statements. Nor can a local delete or otherwise erase specific content promoting or criticizing candidates.
7. Can a local use its website or Facebook page, etc. to provide links to the websites of candidates?
Yes. A local is permitted, but not required, to post links to candidate websites on its local website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc., as long as all candidates are treated equally. If the local decides to post web links for general informational purposes, then it must post the links of all competing candidates. If the local intends to post links only upon request of candidates, the SERC suggests at least two days advance written notice be given to all candidates before a link is posted at the request of a particular candidate.
8. Can a local use its website to provide RSS feeds from a candidate website?
No. The SERC has concluded that it is inappropriate for a local to provide such RSS feeds due to the legal risks and challenges posed.
9. Can locals hand distribute candidate campaign literature to local members?
Yes. Guild locals are permitted, but not required to cooperate with a candidate’s reasonable request for the distribution of campaign literature, provided the candidate is willing to bear the expense of distribution. Should the local decide to cooperate in such requests for distribution, the local must provide advance notice of this opportunity to each candidate, and treat each candidate equally with respect to requests to distribute. The SERC suggests at least days advance notice be given all candidates before literature is distributed at the request of a particular candidate.
11. May a local allow direct candidate access to Local membership e-mail lists or home addresses for purposes of campaigning?
No. In accordance with CWA policy, membership lists are considered a union resource and are not to be shared with candidates or others for campaign purposes. In addition, members have legitimate privacy concerns regarding their personal contact information.
12. May a Local distribute campaign literature at the request of a candidate using local membership lists? By mailing to member home addresses? By emailing to local members using the Local’s email list?
If a candidate requests that a Guild local distribute campaign literature on his behalf, such request may be referred to the SERC through Guild headquarters for handling by the Guild. Upon request and payment of supply, postage and labor costs, the Guild will mail or email campaign literature to members (including subsets of members such as particular Guild locals, as requested by the candidate) on behalf of candidates.
Alternatively, a Local may (but it not legally required to) distribute campaign literature on behalf of a candidate to local members, by mail or by email. But all candidate requests must be treated equally and the candidate should pay in advance all charges related to the distribution (whether by email or by mail). If the Local adopts such an equal access distribution policy, it must give the candidates at least two days’ advance written notice by email. Again, such distribution access must be provided equally to both candidates.
The SERC’s allowance for Local distribution of campaign materials at a candidate’s request reflects a material amendment to the SERC’s prior election rules. This amendment was adopted by the SERC effective February 14, 2019 upon discovery of the incomplete nature of the CWA data base regarding membership email addresses.
Locals are encouraged to update member email addresses in the CWA membership database by accessing the Aptify membership system.
13. May a local permit members (as opposed to candidates) to distribute their own written endorsement of a specific candidate using membership lists for a mailing? Via local e-mail lists?
A local may not directly share its membership lists or contact information for campaign purposes. However, a Local may (but is not legally required to) distribute literature upon request of a local member who supports a particular candidate (an “advocate”), using local membership lists. But all requests must be treated equally and the advocate should pay in advance all charges related to the distribution (whether by email or by mail). If the local adopts such an equal access distribution policy, it should give the local membership at least two days advance written notice by posting that policy on the local website with an explanation of any associated rules or costs. Again, such distribution access must be provided equally to advocates of all candidates.
The SERC’s allowance for Local distribution of campaign materials at an advocate’s request reflects a material amendment to the SERC’s prior election rules. This amendment was adopted by the SERC effective February 14, 2019 upon discovery of the incomplete nature of the CWA data base regarding membership email addresses.
Locals are encouraged to update member email addresses in the CWA membership database by accessing the Aptify membership system.
14. May individual local members (including local officers or employees in their individual capacity) campaign or distribute literature on behalf of a candidate?
Individual members (including Local officers or employees in their individual capacity) are free to distribute campaign material to co-workers by hand, through personal email accounts and personal email lists, or by posting campaign statements on personal Facebook pages and social media sites, as long as no union resources are used. They may also post partisan campaign statements on a Local website or Facebook page, to the extent the Local has adopted a policy to provide equal access to all members for such postings. (See Question 4 above.)
Email and address lists collected by anyone holding an official union capacity – including officers, unit chairs and stewards – as a result of their union position are considered a union asset and can only be used in a non-partisan manner. (See Questions 9 and 12 above.)