Frequently asked questions
- What is Chicago Tribune Guild and who does it include?
- Why unionize, and why now?
- How much are union dues?
What is Chicago Tribune Guild and who does it include?
The Chicago Tribune Guild comprises journalists from throughout the newsrooms of the Chicago Tribune and its community publications. It includes, but is not limited to, reporters, columnists, photographers, designers, web producers, copy editors, graphics producers and some source editors. It is quite simply a collective of our colleagues.
The guild is led by an organizing committee of more than three dozen journalists under the umbrella of the Chicago Tribune. That group is the public-facing entity of our effort: people who have taken the lead in planning our organizing strategy, recruiting our colleagues, designing our website and publicizing our goals to improve the work experience for journalists at the Chicago Tribune and its community publications.
Holding true to our mission of unification and inclusivity, we have sought to make the organizing committee as diverse as possible on both personal and professional levels. Nearly every department and newsroom is represented on the organizing committee. Its members include prize-winning journalists, ranging from newcomers to veterans, as well as a diverse representation of race, gender and sexuality.
We have chosen to organize with the Chicago News Guild, a local chapter of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, because we believe they have the best understanding of the journalism industry; the most experience successfully organizing newsrooms; and a strong track record for publicly advocating and protecting journalists.
Why unionize, and why now?
It’s time. For too long, the corporate leadership of the Chicago Tribune and its community publications has devalued and weakened the effectiveness of its newsrooms.
Through a string of erratic moves, these leaders have demonstrated an apparent lack of regard for journalism and the crucial role that a strong news organization plays in a major city such as Chicago. Poor decision-making at the top deeply affects our ability to cover Chicago, Illinois and the Midwest.
We want to continue the Tribune’s strong legacy of journalistic excellence. And so we must demand a voice in the Tribune’s future. Through the legal power of a labor union, we can force our employer to give us that voice — to listen to us and to negotiate, in good faith, on matters related to our working conditions.
Organizing gives us a protected avenue to collectively advocate for fair treatment in the workplace. Through organizing, we also hope to gain more transparency and clarity from our managers. We can use our strength as a group to publicly advocate for ourselves, our work and our readers.
Has the Chicago Tribune ever tried to organize into a union before? What happened?
There have been whispers of organizing in the past, but the editorial staff at the Chicago Tribune has never held a union election.
What would a union mean for my employment at the Tribune?
We would negotiate a contract that deals with two subjects of bargaining: mandatory and permissive. Mandatory subjects of bargaining include anything that pertains to wages and working conditions, and employers are legally required to come to agreements on those items.
Possible items in this category include:
Input in raise criteria
Guaranteed low premium/high coverage health benefits
Eliminating pay discrepancies along lines of gender, race, age and/or department
Advance notice of layoffs
Possible furlough days to avoid layoffs
Permissive subjects of bargaining include subjects beyond the legal definition of wages and working conditions, such as input in how the hiring process operates. Employers are not required to address these demands via contract agreement. We would, however, try to include certain items from this category into our agreement. Our priorities in this category include:
Improving diversity in hiring practicesOne way this could be achieved would be to demand that a certain number of minority candidates be interviewed for job openings, although we would not be able to require employers to hire specific people.
Potential for involving the union in the interviewing process for prospective managers
If the election is successful and a union is formed, a bargaining survey will poll the newsroom on priorities before we enter into contract negotiations. This will help guide our agenda.
Ultimately we are in control of our contract terms — we would never agree to a contract that would leave us worse off than we are right now.
We may not fulfill every goal in a contract negotiation, but we believe that having a seat at the table would allow our journalists the agency to create a stronger newsroom.
How much are union dues?
Union dues are 1.8 percent of your salary from each paycheck before taxes. No one would pay dues until a contract is signed and union members have voted to ratify it. Again, dues are not paid until after we have a ratified contract.
Can I be penalized for supporting a union?
No. It is illegal for management to act in any way that could be considered retaliatory in response to unionizing. This include demotions, change of job assignments or other “discipline.” That said, you should expect management to send out strong and persistent anti-union messaging to try to dissuade you from supporting this effort.
Check out our Union Busting information page for more details on what to look out for and tips on how to respond.
How does seniority work at a union, and what is "last in, first out?"
It’s true that many unions prioritize seniority with policies such as “Last In, First Out,” under which the most recent hires would be the first to be laid off over senior staff members. Despite what you might hear, such a policy is never a requirement in any union contract.
We’re invested in negotiating every part of the layoff process –– options such as buyout offers, guaranteed severance, notice and optional furlough days, among others. Although the final details would be worked out during contract negotiations, we are determined to find a fair agreement that accounts for everyone in the newsroom.
We have more information on how the company will try to exploit policies like “Last In, First Out” on our Union Busting page.
Do I need to publicly identify myself as a supporter?
We would love to have everyone demonstrating public support for the union in whatever ways they feel comfortable. Showing public support helps boost morale, unify the newsroom and maintain fortitude leading up to the election. The more unified and enthusiastic our newsroom appears, the harder it will be to rattle. However, there is no requirement to publicly identify yourself as a supporter.
If you want to take a more active role, please visit our Join Us page for more information.
What is the process for having a union recognized?
Before we publicly declared our effort to unionize, we started gathering signed union authorization cards indicating support for unionizing and agreement to be represented by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America. We are continuing to ask for your support as we collect these cards.
Once a sufficient majority of the newsroom has signed cards, we may ask Tronc to agree to recognize our union voluntarily, provided that an independent party verifies a majority of us has signed cards. Tronc refused voluntary recognition at the Los Angeles Times, so we anticipate needing to hold an election to make Tronc recognize the Chicago Tribune Guild.
Signed cards are filed with the National Labor Relations Board, which notifies the company that a representation certification election has been filed. The timeline from filing cards to an election is typically four to six weeks, but can take longer.
The NLRB works with the company and the union to determine the voting unit, date and time, and location. This is when we negotiate who will be included in the bargaining unit. Our goal is to include as many of our colleagues as we can, including our non-unionized suburban papers, Hoy and RedEye.
Once we agree on the bargaining unit, we proceed to the election. To successfully form a union, a simple majority of the eligible bargaining unit — 50 percent plus one — must vote in favor.
Why are we organizing with the News Guild? What happened with them at the Sun-Times?
We have chosen to organize with the Chicago News Guild, a local chapter of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, because we believe they have the best understanding of the journalism industry; the most experience successfully organizing newsrooms; and a strong track record for publicly advocating and protecting journalists. Local papers that have unionized under CWA include Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader, Gary Post-Tribune and Pioneer Press.
While the NewsGuild is a valuable resource, we make our own decisions and set our own priorities. The Chicago Tribune Guild belongs to us and is not affected by the contracts of other papers’ unions.
Yes, the Sun-Times infamously eliminated its entire 13-member photo department in 2012. Those who lost their jobs were entitled to tangible benefits provided by their union, including severance packages and a legal process through which the union won four of those jobs back.
It’s also worth noting that Chicago Tribune’s newsroom employees benefited for decades from the strength of the Sun-Times union status. When Chicago was a stronger two-newspaper city, wages and benefits negotiated by the Sun-Times union pushed the Tribune to offer competitive wages and benefits. As the Sun-Times has shrunk, pressure on the Tribune has diminished and wages and benefits have fallen behind.
What about the Tribune's community publications that are already unionized?
For community publications that already operate under their own union contracts, we have to respect those agreements and would not be able to include them in any negotiations at this time. Until that changes, we are neither beholden to any conditions of their contract, nor they ours.
If those employees decide they want to seek representation with us in the future, we would certainly welcome that as our community publications are a critical component to the operation of our entire newsroom.