Jurisdiction: What is it and why you should care

The Buffalo Newspaper Guild regularly deals with issues at The News related to jurisdiction.

Often, the issues get little attention, as Guild officers and News managers work through problems that arise.

No matter how seemingly minor an issue, the Guild has sought to be vigilant about jurisdiction because the principle is so important. So far, we’ve disagreed at times but have avoided a major battle over the issue, and that’s a good thing.

Jurisdiction sounds legalistic and uninteresting. But this is a subject every Guild member should know about. Probably more than any other provision in your contract, the jurisdiction article protects your jobs. Those of you who don’t care about jurisdiction put the rest of us at risk.

It’s easy to find in your contract — Article 1, Section 2. And it starts with a simple idea: “The jurisdiction of the Guild is the kind of work normally or presently performed within the unit covered by this contract, and new or additional work assigned to be performed within the unit.”

What does this mean?

Jurisdiction defines the work we do. For instance, in the newsroom, that means writing stories, shooting photographs, editing copy and designing graphics. But the jurisdiction protection applies to all other Guilt-represented departments, too.

The jurisdiction language is the only way the Guild can assure that the work we do today continues to be the work we do tomorrow.

Many employees have left in recent years, but their work has not gone away. As a result, the Guild finds itself, at times, struggling with management to define what is our work.

We place an emphasis on the issue because jurisdiction is, first and foremost, about job security. The jurisdiction clause is one of the few aspects of the contract that prevents the company from farming out your work to non-Guild employees.

Whether it’s the newsroom, Circulation, Classified or Accounting, we think our members do a better job than freelancers or people hired from outside our ranks.

We’re all busy, so if you’re wondering what’s the harm in allowing non-Guild members to do some of our work, the answer is simple. Tell us where it ends.