Industry Leaders Should Respect Their Workers and Their Unions
Updated: Jul 23
NBC News Guild members went on strike earlier this year after the firing of one of their colleagues. One member speaks on her experience with the strike.
Unions within the journalism industry feature a contentious struggle between reporters and newsroom executives. The struggles typically entail contract negotiations and proper recognition of said unions.
The history of journalism unions began with the creation of The NewsGuild-CWA in 1933. The unioin came during the Great Depression as reporters weren’t satisfied with their low wages and working conditions. That same dissatisfaction has become apparent among reporters of today.
Summer Concepion, a digital politics reporter for NBC News, recently walked off the job with many of her colleagues in relation to contract negotiations — or lack thereof. NBC News and NBC News Guild, the organization's union for the digital team, negotiated on the union’s contract for two years.
According to a video made by union members, workers within the union did their jobs, reporting on stories about the insurrection and the war in Ukraine, without a contract and NBC News continuously delayed the process.
“From what I’m seeing so far, it’s like the union would put forth proposals, but NBC executives wouldn’t exactly answer or reply back to all of our proposals,” Concepcion said. “If it’s a really resistant type of management you’re dealing with at the bargaining table, then they’re going to try to put all the stops to not bargain in good faith because they don’t want to give up.”
Regarding the walkout, Concepcion said the cherry on top was that NBC News laid off one of their colleagues in January. According to the video, NBC News illegally laid off seven union journalists in total while stripping a team of their union protections. A day before these layoffs, the bargaining committee held a bargaining session, which Concepcion observed.
“That was really...giving NBC one more chance to bargain in good faith before we were to officially walk out. And it just didn’t happen,” Concepcion said.
NBC wouldn’t answer union members’ questions about the layoffs, questions about who was laid off and what severance packages looked like, if they got one. Not only did they have one last bargaining session, about 75 percent of union members signed a pledge to walk off the job if NBC refused to bargain in good faith. NBC News said differently in their statement to The Hill about the walkout.
“We are disappointed by the NewsGuild’s continued attempsts to misrepresent the facts while we work in good faith with them to reach an agreement,” NBC News said in their statement.
Concepcion was in full support of the walkout, but she had some reservations. For one, she got the job in August, so she hasn’t been an employee for a full year, yet. The other aspect is that she wanted to make sure a majority of the digital team would walkout. Luckily, she was assured by union leaders that a super majority of the union signed a pledge to walkout.
Unions are instrumental in giving a voice to workers in things like healthcare and salary stabilization. They aim to serve workers, especially with situations at NBC News. Concepcion explains the personal benefits of the union, especially the relationship she has with her managers.
“My managers have been pretty good with making sure I get [paid time off],” Concepcion said. “They’re pretty apologetic if there’s a situation, like where I’m working a little past my shift.”
Her managers make her job better, as she knows that she will have managers in the future that won’t be as understanding. Not only does she have good managers, her job hasn’t been in danger. Concepion recognizes that she’s fortunate to not have any negative experiences yet.
“For the time being...I’m just very fortunate that I don’t experience negativity because of [the lack of a union contract],” Concepcion said. “But, you know, there’s other people in the union who have a different experience.”
Due to her time with unions and her time at NBC, Concepcion appreciates the community, especially when her concerns are validated.