Labor Roundup | March 2020

Journalists unionizing at Sports Illustrated, alternatives in Phoenix, Miami. Arbitrary firings by a new management firm with no sports news experience, plus an uncertain future relying on “stringers” led more than 90% of the remaining 80 full-time staffers of Sports Illustrated magazine to sign union recognition election cards, submit them to management and demand voluntary recognition of their decision to join The News Guild of New York.

The staff’s decision to unionize follows a pattern set at other media firms, where new owners or managers – often hedge funds – have taken over, cut jobs in the name of profits, and endangered or downgraded quality. To defend themselves and readers, staffs of publications ranging from the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times to the Denver Post and a large group of local newspapers in Virginia all have joined News Guild locals in the last year-plus. Elsewhere, workers at the alternative Miami New Times and the Phoenix New Times signed union cards and created the Voice Media Guild, a News Guild unit.

“We’re the journalists of two alt-weeklies that bring essential coverage to our communities,” the organizing committee Tweeted. “Our small and scrappy teams consistently break news and keep our readers up to date on where to eat, catch live shows and see groundbreaking art. By unionizing we hope to gain better and more equitable pay and benefits, layoff protections and a stronger voice in our own newsrooms.”

In big win for female athletes, WNBA and union ink 8-year deal. Starting next year, Women’s National Basketball Association players will get 50% of their league’s revenue, like the men’s NBA, under a new contract settled this winter, and they’re defying sexist critics.

“It always baffles me when people come out of the woodwork to protest us making more — this money doesn’t come from their pocket. It’s a direct attack on the fact that we are women, playing professional sports,” said Dallas Wings center Imani McGee-Stafford. “No one ever has any comment when NBA players hold out to get bigger contracts or think they’re making too much.”

The pact raises individual players’ salary cap to more than $500,000 while the annual base compensation will rise above six figures for the first time.

The Cable News Network (CNN) is paying $76 million to 300+ illegally fired techs. After a 15-year fight, CNN settled a dispute with the Communications Workers about the corporation in 2003 ending an agreement with a unionized contractor, bringing the work in-house, refusing to bargain with the union, firing long-term workers and cutting wages and changing working conditions for survivors.

The amount – the largest in the 84-year history of the National Labor Relations Board – is for backpay and interest.

The final pressure came from six candidates for the Democratic nomination for president who said they wouldn’t cross CWA picket lines at a CNN debate, and DNC chair Thomas Perez, a former Obama administration Labor Secretary.

Religious colleges’ adjuncts can’t unionize, federal court says. By a 2-1 margin, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. effectively barred unions from organizing adjunct professors at religious colleges – even when the adjuncts teach courses that have nothing to do with religion.

Judges hearing the case of the Steelworkers against Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, a Catholic school, conceded that more than half the nation’s 1 million adjunct professors at all colleges are part-time, virtually none are tenured, fewer than half get life, health and pension protections from their colleges, and they earn 75% less per course than regular faculty do.

However, two judges ruled that allowing workers to unionize there would represent government entanglement with religion, violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment bar on such interference.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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