Unionizing Your Workplace

The United Media Guild is committed to helping workers gain union representation. We primarily represent reporters, photographers, editors and designers for print and digital media companies. We also represent employees in non-profit social justice organizations and other labor unions.

Along with our sector leadership at The NewsGuild and our international leadership at the Communication Workers of America, we stand ready to help you organize your workplace.

One significant benefit of organizing is the potential access to the United Furniture Workers medical fund. We have helped workers in several non-profit organizations gain access to medical coverage at a better price through this union-run fund.

If you are interesting in gaining union representation, feel free to contact us Business Representative Shannon Duffy at sduffy@unitedmediaguild.org.



Section 7:

“Employees shall have the right to self organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection . . ”

Who can organize?

  • Federal law gives employees of private business and organizations the right to form unions.
  • If you work for a governmental agency, different labor laws apply when you organize.
  • Supervisors, managers and independent contractors are not covered by the law.

Section 8(a):

“It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer . . . to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7 . . . ”


You have the legal right under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act to join or support a union and to:

1. Attend meetings to discuss joining a union.

2. Read, distribute, and discuss union literature (as long as you do this in non-work areas, such as break rooms or parking lots, during non-work times, such as during breaks or lunch hours.)

3. Wear union buttons, T-shirts, stickers, hats, or other items on the job.

4. Sign a petition or card asking your employer to recognize and bargain with the union.

5. Sign petitions or file grievances related to wages, hours, working conditions, and other job issues.

6. Ask other employees to support the union, to sign union petitions or cards, or to file grievances.


Under Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, your employer cannot legally punish or discriminate against any worker because of union activity.

For example, your employer cannot legally do the following:

– Threaten to or actually fire, lay off, discipline, harass, transfer, or reassign employees because they support the union.

– Shut down the work site or take away any benefits or privileges employees already enjoy in order to discourage union activity.

– Promise employees a pay increase, promotion, benefit, or special favor if they oppose the union.

– Favor employees who don’t support the union over those who do in promotions, job assignments, wages, hours, enforcement of rules, or any other working condition.


Some employers try to prevent the workers from joining a union.

The best way to encourage your employer to recognize your union and negotiate a fair contract is to build a strong organization where you work.

If your employer violates the law, the union can help you file “unfair labor practice” charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Labor Board has the power – backed up by the federal courts – to order an employer to stop interfering with employee rights, to provide back pay, and to reverse any action taken against workers for union activity.


Keep written notes of any incidents in which company officials or supervisors threaten, harass, or punish workers because of union activity. Your notes don’t have to be worded a certain way, but you should include what was said or done, who was involved, where and when it happened, and the names of any witnesses.

Immediately report any such incidents to your organizing committee and the union staff.

Click here to read: https://www.nlrb.gov/national-labor-relations-act

Independent Contractors:

What is the law regarding independent contractors?

If you are called an “Independent Contractor”, “Carrier,” “Freelancer,” “Stringer,” or “Correspondent,” it is necessary to determine if labor laws apply to you. Under federal labor law individuals who are truly independent contractors do not have the rights to form unions. They are considered to be independent business men and women.

Just because a company calls you an independent contractor does not mean you are under the law.

Ask yourself these questions about your position. Do note that he answer to a single question alone does not determine your status. The Guild is available to assist you in reviewing your status.

A “Yes” answer for the following questions indicates that the worker is probably an employee:

  • Does the business provide instructions to the worker about when, where and how he or she is to perform the work?
  • Does the business provide training to the worker?
  • Are the services provided by the worker integrated into the business’ operations?
  • Must the services be rendered personally by the worker?
  • Does the business hire, supervise and pay assistants to the worker?
  • Is there a continuing relationship between the business and the worker?
  • Does the business set the work hours and schedule?
  • Does the worker devote substantially full time to the work of the business?
  • Is the work performed on the business’ premises?
  • Is the worker required to perform the services in an order or sequence set by the business?
  • Is the worker required to submit oral or written reports to the business?
  • Is the worker paid by the hour, week or month?
  • Does the business have the right to discharge the worker at will?
  • Can the worker terminate his or her relationship with the business any time he or she wishes without incurring liability to the business?
  • Does the business pay the traveling expenses of the worker?

A “Yes” answer for the following questions indicates that the worker is probably an Independent Contractor:

  • Does the worker furnish significant tools, materials and equipment?
  • Does the worker have a significant investment in the facilities?
  • Can the worker realize a profit or loss as a result of his or her services?
  • Does the worker provide services for more than one firm at a time?
  • Does the worker make his or her services available to the general public?


Here are some key objectives of collective bargaining:


Defining pay for workers, often including a wage scale that brings an employee up from a beginner rate to a mutually agreeable top rate of pay. This is often done based on job classifications, with more difficult work being compensated at a higher rate.

Defining overtime pay and conditions. While the law specifies overtime must be paid after 40 hours of work, some contracts call for overtime pay in other situations as well.

Compensatory time. In some circumstances, depending on which state you work in, comp time is allowed in a limited way and the parties are willing to discuss it as an alternative to overtime pay.


Defining paid time off. Vacations, holidays and sick time all come under this umbrella.

Health care benefits. This critical benefit has taken on even greater importance as the Affordable Care Act is gradually implemented in the next few years. Employers who do not offer some kind of insurance are going to find an even greater drain on their workforce as employees seek coverage as mandated by the law.  Through our relationship with the United Furniture Workers Insurance Fund we are able to negotiate competitively priced insurance plan that offers significant benefits for Guild-represented Employers.

Pension, 401(k), life insurance and/or other post-employment protections. These can often provide some incentive to employees who might not be paid at competitive rates.


Foremost among these in a collective bargaining agreement is a defined system of grievance and arbitration. This is the cornerstone of the working relationship between employee and employer because it provides a neutral ground upon which the parties can resolve differences and disputes. It is considerably less expensive than going through the court system and often faster than the legal processes afforded by federal and state agencies.

Reimbursement for expenses and mileage. Workers who have to pay for such expenses may not be able to afford to even work for their employer if they are expected to travel and meet with people on a regular basis.

Union shop. In order to ensure that workers are paying their fair share of the costs of negotiating and maintaining a contract, unions often seek an agreement that requires employees/members to pay dues (in our union, dues are only 1.6% of the employee’s pay) or the equivalent of dues as a condition of employment. In some states, because of “Right to Work” legislation, the parties cannot negotiate such an agreement.

Jurisdiction describes the work that your employees are contracting to perform. Though such language usually prevents the employer from assigning job duties to non-employees or managers, jurisdiction agreements might allow for people other then your employees to do the same work but usually that is combined with a job protection to keep workers from being laid off.

Contracts often also include agreements that encourage fair hiring practices, hiring of minorities and the disadvantaged, health and safety protections and other progressive provisions.


What would a collective bargaining agreement look like? Here are some samples from actual contracts:


Jurisdiction of the Guild shall cover all work performed by employees in the departments and classifications listed.  The type of work normally performed within the bargaining unit by employees covered shall be performed by employees covered by this agreement, except that nothing in this section shall be interpreted to bar employees in the positions excluded from this Agreement from continuing to perform the work done by them as part of their normal function.


  1. The Employer shall require as a condition of employment of each employee that the employee be and remain a member of the Guild in good standing no later than the 30th day following either (1) the date of the first Guild contract legally enforceable under the Labor Management Relations Act, or (2) the date of hiring, whichever is later.
  2. There shall be no interference or attempt to interfere with the operations of the Guild.


Upon an employee’s voluntary written assignment, the Employer shall deduct from the weekly earnings of such employee and pay to the Guild not later than the 15th day of each month an amount equal to Guild initiation fees, dues and assessments.  Such amounts shall be deducted from the employee’s earnings in accordance with the Guild’s schedule of rates furnished the Employer by the Guild.  Such schedule may be amended by the Guild at any time.  An employee’s voluntary written assignment shall remain effective in accordance with the terms of such assignment.


  1. The Employer shall notify the Guild of each vacancy and shall give full consideration to the hiring of candidates supplied by the Guild.
  2. Non-Discrimination and Affirmative Action Policy

a)      The Employer is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer.  It is the policy of the employer to prohibit discrimination against any of its employees on the basis of race, sex, age, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, religion, color, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation or physical disability.

b)      The Employer seeks a diverse pool of volunteers and applicants for all opportunities and responsibilities within the organization – in particular with respect to women, people of color, the LGBT community, immigrants and people of all ages.  The Employer will ensure there is no adverse impact against any of the above groups in our selection procedures.

  1. Sexual Harassment Policy

a)      The Employer is committed to providing a work environment where people can work together comfortably and productively, free from sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment is illegal under both state and federal law and will not be tolerated in this organization.

b)      This policy applies to all phases of employment including recruiting, hiring, promotion or demotion, transfer, layoff, termination, rates of pay, benefits and selection for training, travel or organization social events.

c)      Sexual harassment complaints will be addressed in the grievance procedure described herein.

  1. The Employer shall have the unlimited right to discharge a new employee who has not concluded a probationary period of six (6) months, beginning from the date that the employee begins work.  An employee’s probationary period may, by mutual consent of the Employer and the Guild, be extended for an additional up to six (6) months.
  2. The Employer  is committed to providing staff with opportunities for continuous learning and development.  Staff development is a shared responsibility and staff and leaders can expect to be regularly called upon to lead, train, and mentor any other staff or leader.  Each staff member will have their own staff development fund they can draw upon for classes, books or other skills development activities.  The size of that fund will be set each year as part of the budgeting process.  Employees will request access to these funds by turning in a “Staff Development Request Form” to their supervisor, who will determine whether the request is valid, and whether enough resources remain to fulfill the request.



  1. The Employer shall supply the Guild on request with a list containing the following information for each employee:

a)      Name, address, sex, minority group, date of birth and social security number

b)      Date of hiring

c)      Classification

d)      Salary and any other forms of compensation

  1. The Employer shall notify the Guild within thirty (30) days in writing of:

a)      Merit increases, granted by name of the employee, individual amount, resulting new salary and effective date.

b)      Step-up salary increases paid by name of the employee, individual amount, resulting new salary and effective date.

c)      Changes in classification, salary changes by reason thereof, and effective date.

d)      Resignations, retirements, deaths and other revisions in the data listed in Section 1 and effective dates.

  1. Within one week after the hiring of a new employee, the Employer shall furnish the Guild in writing with the data specified in Section 1 for each new employee.
  2. The Employer shall supply the Guild with full information as to hiring and promotional standards and procedures and any changes.

The Employer shall furnish to the employee and to the Guild a copy of any criticism, discipline, commendations, appraisal or rating of such employee’s performance in the employee’s job or any other comment or notation regarding employee simultaneously with its being placed in the employee’s personnel file.  The employee and/or the Guild shall be allowed to place in such a file a response to anything contained therein which such employee and/or the Guild deems to be adverse.  An employee and/or the Guild shall have the right to review the employee’s personnel file at a mutually convenient time and upon request shall be provided copies of all material in the employee’s file.  No derogatory personnel record shall have any effect after 12 months following its date, unless there has been within that period the same infraction.  Such records shall be removed from the individual’s personnel file upon reaching the twelve month limit.


  1. The Guild shall designate a steward of its own choosing to take up with the Employer or authorized agent any matter arising from the application of this contract or affecting the relations of the employee and the Employer.  A grievance means a dispute or controversy which arises out of or involving the interpretation of this agreement.

a)      Step One: It is agreed that both parties shall do all possible to solve the dispute at its earliest possible stage.  To that end, the employee and his/her steward shall meet with the employee’s immediate supervisor to attempt to work out any dispute prior to filing a formal (written) grievance.

b)      Step Two:  If a meeting with the immediate supervisor does not resolve the dispute, a grievance shall be filed in writing with the grievant’s supervisor, with a copy to the Executive Director, within ten (10) working days of the occurrence or within ten (10) working days after the grievant or Guild became aware of the occurrence or should have reasonably become aware of the occurrence.  Efforts to adjust grievances shall be made on work time within reason.

Within ten (10) days of receiving the grievance, the Executive Director shall meet with the Guild’s Business Representative to discuss the dispute.  Within ten (10) working days of the meeting the Employer shall respond to the Guild’s Business Representative in writing.  If the employer does not respond, the Guild may move the matter to arbitration.

c)      Step Three:  Any matter involving the interpretation, application, administration or alleged violation of the Agreement (except the renewal of this Agreement), including a question of whether or not a matter is arbitrable, not satisfactorily settled by Step One or Step Two may be submitted to final and binding arbitration by either party within 10 working days of the Step Two response.

  1. If the parties cannot agree on the impartial arbitrator, then the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) will be requested to designate a panel of arbitrators and the arbitrator shall be selected by the parties alternately striking names from the list until one name remains and that person shall be the arbitrator.  All costs of such arbitration shall be borne equally by the parties, except that no party shall be obligated to pay any part of the cost of a stenographic transcript without express consent.
  2. The term “grievant” shall be considered to include: any individual Guild member, a group of Guild members or the Guild.
  3. The time limits set forth in this Article may be extended upon mutual agreement.


  1. The Employer shall not discipline or discharge anyone without just and sufficient cause.Discipline, when necessary, shall be applied progressively by the Employer, except that the Employer need not follow progressive discipline before discharge if the discharge is for theft, deliberate damage to Employer property, gross insubordination, serious misconduct, physical violence or other similar offenses.
  2. If no other discipline has been received, notices of discipline shall be removed twelve (12) months after issuance.
  3. Employee is required to give two weeks notice prior to leaving employment and an employee who leaves voluntarily shall not be entitled to severance pay.
  4. Severance pay shall be as follows, except in cases of termination for misconduct or while on probationary period.a. Six months to one year: one week’s pay
    b. One to four years: two weeks pay
    c. Four to eight years: three weeks pay
    d. Eight years or more: four weeks pay


    1. 1. The Employer shall notify the following in writing at least 60 days prior to any proposed dismissal to reduce the force, specifying the job title and number of employees.

2. During the first two weeks of that notice period, the Employer will meet with representatives of the Guild and provide the economic justification for the reduction, and will discuss alternatives to the reduction in force.  Loss of project specific funds shall be cause for economic justification.

3. Representatives of Employer and the Guild will arrive at the specific plan for reduction in force taking into consideration seniority, special skills, job performance and relationships of current staff.  It is the goal of both the Employer and the Guild to maintain diversity.


    1. 1. Employees assigned to work on a weekend will accrue one-half day of vacation.

2. It is understood that employees will, from time to time, work long hours and shall be permitted – with consultation with the supervisor when practical – to adjust their schedules to accommodate their home/work balance.

3. To assist employees in balancing conflicts between work and family commitments, the Employer and the Guild recognize the value and need for alternative work schedules and arrangements either on a regular or ad hoc basis, in consultation with the supervisor.

4. The Employer shall follow the guidelines set by the federal government with respect to closing, reporting and departure times in the event of inclement weather or other emergency.


    1. 1.Bereavement Leave:  Employees who experience the death of a loved one are entitled to time off with pay.  Employees should discuss their needs for time off with their supervisor, taking into consideration the need for travel.

2. Parental Leave:  Employees are entitled to time off in connection with the birth or adoption of a child.  After one year of employment, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave, and an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  The employee may use her/his accrued vacation and sick leave for the unpaid leave.  Leave does not have to be consecutive.  Upon returning to work, the employee is entitled to her/his same position, with no loss of seniority.  The employee will continue to receive all benefits while on parental leave.

3. Sabbaticals:  Employees will be entitled to a six-week paid sabbatical after five years of employment.  Sabbatical time will not reduce paid vacation time to which an employee is entitled.  Sabbaticals must be scheduled with the Executive Director at least six months in advance.  The employee completing a sabbatical must continue his/her employment for one (1) year upon completion of the sabbatical.  Should the employee leave voluntarily before one year is complete, the employee shall forfeit the equivalent of one (1) week’s pay for each two (2) months short of one (1) year (for example: an employee leaving after six months would forfeit three (3) weeks pay).

4. Guild Leave:  In the event an employee is elected or appointed to any office or position in The Newspaper Guild (TNG) or Communications Workers of America (CWA) or a local of TNG or CWA, this shall be considered good and sufficient cause for an unpaid leave of absence and the leave shall be granted.  An employee who is elected or appointed to any other labor position or a government position, may be granted an unpaid leave of absence by the Employer.  Employees on Guild leave shall not accrue vacation or sick leave and are responsible for their health insurance.

5. Military Leave:  Employees inducted into the Armed Services of the United States, or recalled to active duty with the Armed Services, shall accumulate seniority and retain all other rights under this Agreement while in such service, and on return from such service may claim their original job.  If that job no longer exists a comparable job with a salary no less than what they would have received had their service with the Employer been continuous, will be awarded, provided that they apply for reinstatement with ninety (90) days after release from the Armed Services.  Employees on Military Leave shall not accrue vacation or sick leave and are responsible for their health insurance.

6. The Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act shall apply to employees.  For the purpose of this section, a domestic partner shall be treated the same as a spouse.

7. Jury/Court duty:

a. An employee called for jury duty will be allowed the necessary time off to render such civic service.  During the course of jury duty, the employee will report for work on any day, or portion thereof, when the services of the employee are not required in court.
b. The employee will be paid his or her regular wages for periods of jury duty coinciding with the employee’s regularly scheduled work hours.

8. Authorized leave under the Article shall not constitute a break in continuity of service and shall be considered as service time for all rights under the Agreement except as noted in this Article.


    1. 1. Vacations

Beginning with the first month of employment, employees accrue paid vacation time at the rates specified below:
Year 1:        10 days per year    (.8333 days / month)
Year 2:        10 days
Years 3 and 4:    15 days
Years 5 to 7:    20 days
Years 8+:    25 days
a) Up to, but no more than 5 days may be carried over from one year to the next and with the approval of immediate supervisor.  Upon termination of employment, employees will be paid for all earned, but unused vacation time.

b) Requests to use vacation time must be submitted in writing and approved by the employee’s direct supervisor.  It is asked that employees provide a minimum of two week’s notice of their intent to use vacation time.

c) Employees may request vacation pay in advance of their vacation by giving written notice a full pay period in advance of the vacation.

2. Holidays

a) Full time employees are entitled to the following 12 paid holidays per year: New Years Eve, New Years Day, Martin Luther King, Jr Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day,  Thanksgiving and the following day, and four days flexibly to accommodate Hannukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Christmas, and/or other religious/ethnic observance, according to the employees choice.  Employees may be required to work on a holiday by immediate supervisor, but would be entitled to compensatory time
b) Part-time employees are entitled to paid holidays on a pro-rated basis to be negotiated with the Director.

3. Sick Leave

a) Full-time employees earn sick leave at the rate of one day per month (12 days per year).  Part-time employees earn sick leave at the appropriate proportion of the full-time rate.

b) Sick leave may be accumulated from year to year up to a limit of 20 days earned but not taken.  Upon termination of employment employees will not be paid for earned but unused sick leave.

c) When a staff member is sick, he or she should notify the office early on each day of absence (unless other arrangements have been made).  Sick leave may be used only for a staff member’s illness or medical appointments, or for attending to the health of a family member.  Vacation and personal days may be applied to extend paid sick leave, at the employee’s choice.  Any employee may ask to take leave without pay after all earned sick leave is used.  This request must be approved by the employee’s supervisor.


Employees may participate in the CWA Retirement Trust (401K plan), and their contributions will be matched by the Employer up to 2% of their annual income.


    1. 1. Full time staff members become eligible for health care coverage upon employment.  Coverage shall continue through the last day of employment.


    1. 2. For each full time staff member, the Employer will pay 100 percent of monthly premium for an individual or two thirds of the monthly premium for a couple or a family plan, as appropriate, to provide basic health and dental insurance.


    1. 3. At the employees option, if the employee is covered under another family member’s health insurance policy, the Employer will reimburse the employee monthly for actual out-of-pocket expenses.  Employees must provide documentation for out-of-pocket expenses.


    1. 4. In the event that a serious illness or accident prevents the continuation of employment, the Employer may authorize continued payment of insurance premiums for up to six months after employment is ended.


    1. 5. No provision of this collective bargaining agreement is intended to circumvent or interfere with an employee’s rights or responsibilities under federal or state law, including but not limited to provision of the Missouri workers’ compensation system.

6. The Employer provides workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance coverage for its employees in compliance with federal and state law.