The Newspaper Guild is an international labor union with more than 34,000 members in the United States and Canada. Guild members work in a wide variety of newsroom, advertising, circulation and other jobs at newspapers, magazines, wire services, radio and television stations, labor unions and non-profit organizations, and also as translators, interpreters and technology workers. The international office is in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1997, the Guild became part of the Communications Workers of America, a union representing more than 700,000 people in the communications/media and information technology industries.
The Milwaukee Newspaper Guild is Local 51 of the international. It originally represented Milwaukee Sentinel employees before the 1962 sale of that paper to Journal Communications. The local was revived in 1984, and now represents reporters, copy editors, photographers, page designers, artists, support staff and some deputy and assistant editors at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and producers and designers at JSOnline. Our bargaining unit has more than 100 employees.
As a democratic union, the Guild elects its leaders by direct vote of the membership, at both the international and local levels. In our local, all dues-paying members have the right to vote — and run — in elections to pick our five officers and three other Executive Board members. Guild members also vote to pick our delegates and alternates to international conventions. The board then appoints steward leaders and committees. Officers, steward leaders and committees handle day-to-day decisions, with direction from the board. Most important questions are put to a vote of the membership, usually at quarterly meetings.
Our contract sets minimum (but not maximum) wages and defines benefits, working conditions and job security for all members of the bargaining unit. It is negotiated by a committee of Guild members appointed by the local’s president with the approval of the Executive Board. Our committee seeks the views of our membership in determining our negotiating positions, and sometimes asks the membership for a public show of support. When the two sides reach tentative agreement on a contract, the pact is submitted to the membership for a ratification vote.
Your dues come to 1% of your pay, deducted directly from your paycheck every two weeks. For example, a full-time reporter who earns $900 a week would pay $9 a week, or $18 off each paycheck, and a part-time editorial assistant who earns $13 an hour for 24 hours a week would pay $3.12 a week, or $6.24 off each paycheck. This rate results from a special “rebate” off the minimum dues level of 1.38% set by the international constitution. We hope to continue this special rate as long as our membership and our treasury remain strong.
To a limited extent, union dues are tax-deductible. If you itemize deductions, your union dues can be included as “business and professional expenses.” Similar expenses include memberships and subscriptions related to your job, such as dues to the Society of Professional Journalists or a subscription to the Columbia Journalism Review. If all of these expenses exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income, the portion over 2% is deductible.
Money raised from dues is used to define and protect your rights. Among the major expenses traditionally have been the costs of bargaining a contract and enforcing it through grievances and other legal proceedings when necessary. Money also goes to our international parents, The Newspaper Guild and the Communications Workers of America, who provide us with research, legal aid, financial assistance and staff help on a wide range of issues. In addition, we have all the normal office expenses of any organization our size.
The privileges of membership include a variety of discounts on services and products that range from banking to videos to attorneys to medicine. These discounts are provided through the UnionPlus program.