Jan 12Liked by Richard J. Tofel

As instigator of a successful newsroom union drive (Newsday 1973-75) and first elected leader of that union (1975-79) I can add some perspective to this analyze. I’ll limit myself to three concise thoughts.

First, I would substitute “expenses” for “profits.” Labor cost is a major element of any news organization’s operation — probably even more so now than when presses and delivery tricks were involved —and collective bargaining is about giving employees a role in making sure basic investment in staffing is smart and equitable.

Second, what management sees as a cumbersome obstacle to discipline and termination unions call due process. I just about sacrificed my career to start a union — managers do no favors for those who organize one on their watch — and as proud as I am of the wage gains we made I was prouder still of interceding to save the jobs of two staffers who went on to complete productive careers.

Finally negotiations are, or at least should be, about establishing fair minimum wages and conditions of employment, not preventing management from rewarding what it sees as outstanding work or spending what is required to compete for exceptional talent. So long as all beat reporters and copy editors were treated fairly it did not bother me one whit that Murray Kempton was paid well above scale.

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Arbitrary behavior includes more than arbitrary firings, or wage/salary/benefits issues in general. Especially as many newsrooms are still very White and tilt a fair amount male, even as diversity initiatives grow in the workplace in general, there's other reasons to unionize (and not just in newspapers). And, for editorial staff, it's not big, but of course, with folks like pressmen, there's workplace safety issues.

Media ethics issue may be another issue for editorial staff that gets connected to unionizing.

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