Why do unions like the Buffalo Newspaper Guild matter?

Workers need representation inside the workplace. This goes beyond bargaining for wages and benefits or defending members from disciplinary actions. Unions also give workers the best way to be heard and to have their concerns addressed because Guild member wages, benefits, working conditions and other terms of employment are protected by a binding and legal contract with the company.

Employees without unions do not have this protection. Being a member of a strong and active union means always having an advocate to ensure you are being treated fairly and that you are receiving the rights and benefits that union contract requires. At a time when the newspaper industry is shrinking, these protections are more important than ever.

Who belongs to the Buffalo Newspaper Guild?

The Guild represents about 150 employees, most of whom work at The Buffalo News. We represent most employees in the main newsroom and also represent employees in Circulation, Accounting, Prepress, and at the Hamburg Sun. We also represent employees at Tonawanda Printing, Delft Printing, Gallagher Printing, and Hodgins Printing.

How much are dues and why must we pay them?

Dues are equal to 1.7811 percent of Guild members’ weekly gross wages for employees in Circulation, Editorial and Accounting. The rate is 1.60 percent for members in PrePress and vary for other independent print shops. Dues also are deducted from additional compensation, such as merit pay and overtime.

Dues provide The Guild with the financial resources needed to conduct day-to-day business, to represent its members, to protect members’ interests in the workplace and in the community.

Costs to manage the Guild include negotiating contracts, enforcing the contract through grievances and arbitrations, legal fees, defense fund investment advice, newsletters, outside research, training and education of union representatives, Guild officer stipends, and to pay for a local staff representative and Guild office. When necessary, dues are also spent to support mobilization efforts and job actions to protest actions by company owners and managers.

Perhaps the single biggest expense is a monthly “per capita” dues payment to The Guild’s international headquarters, Communication Workers of America, in Washington, D.C.

Who runs the Guild?

The members run this union. Members elect the officers. The officers – president, vice president of mobilization and communication, vice president of contract administration, treasurer and secretary – report to an Executive Committee made up of representatives from Editorial, Circulation/District Managers and Accounting/Bookkeeping/Credit. Other stewards who represent independent print shops are also entitled to have committee representation.

Guild officers, along with a full-time Guild administrator, carry out the day-to-day business of the union. The executive committee typically meets once a month and has oversight over all major policies and expenditures. The Guild also conducts quarterly membership meetings in the main News auditorium.

When issues crop up that require more detailed work, committees and subcommittees convene to assist the Guild leadership team.

The Guild is a transparent organization, meaning our business is done openly and Guild news, announcements and important documents are made available to members.

Who represents my department if there are questions or problems?

Department stewards and officers, who may receive a small stipend, ensure the contract is followed and help communicate information to members. They answer questions, help find solutions to problems, and may represent employees in meetings with managers. Stewards should be one of your first contacts if you have a problem on the job.

Stewards also play a key role during contract negotiations by helping mobilize members. The strength of our union is the total energy and support of the members who can be mobilized. When more members get involved, we can accomplish more.

To learn who represents you and your department, please visit the “Contact” page on our website.

What if I face disciplinary action or if a manager wants to question me about an incident?

Simply inform your supervisor that you wish for Guild representation. You are entitled to ask for union representation at any point before or during a meeting. Your supervisor is obligated to wait until a Guild representative, such as a steward, staff member or officer, is available to join you.

You have the right to be informed of the subject matter and to confer privately with a union representative before questioning or any disciplinary discussion begins. You have the right to have a union representative speak at such a meeting and to ask questions.

You have the right to be advised by a union representative as to how to answer a question. And, you have the right to offer information following the questioning.

We discourage Guild members who may be facing disciplinary action from participating in any conversation with management alone. If you do not know who your Guild representative is, see the “Contact” page on this website.

How does the Guild communicate and share information with its members?

The Guild holds quarterly membership meetings and additional special informational meetings during negotiations. We have an active website, and we send email blasts and text messages to members. The website includes minutes of all Executive Committee and general membership meetings, as well as important documents, including the contract. We also distribute and post a quarterly newsletter.

We make use of a Guild “messenger” system that ensures that Guild members have a personal point of contact when time-sensitive information needs to be shared. Finally, we regularly post information to Guild bulletin boards located in every department and distribute flyers on particularly newsworthy information.

What is “seniority” and how does it affect Guild members?

Seniority keeps personal feelings out of decisions, such as for scheduling and vacation requests in each of the Guild-represented departments. Seniority ensures fairness in decisions, such as in the event of layoffs. Seniority allows for current employees to be given preference in filling vacancies at The News.

What is “jurisdiction” and why is it important?

Our contract reads, “The jurisdiction of the Guild is the kind of work normally and presently performed within the unit covered by this contract.” This may be the most important sentence in our contract with The Buffalo News.

Jurisdiction is the work we do, whether it’s writing stories, shooting photographs, posting copy online or assisting subscribers with circulation issues. The contract language defining it is the only way the Guild can assure that the work we do today continues to be the work we do tomorrow.

The jurisdiction clause is one of the few aspects of the contract that prevents the company from farming out our jobs without negotiated consent from the Guild.

How can I learn more about getting involved in the Guild?

At a time when the newspaper industry and the people it employs face tremendous challenges, the need for greater involvement by Guild members has never been higher. The Guild has many committees that need volunteers, including committees for grievances, finances, mobilization and community service. Vacancies are also routinely filled on the Executive Committee. In addition, we offer free training for anyone interested in playing a greater role in the union.

For more information, contact our office at 716-856-2828.