Why We Have Guilds, And Seniority: One Opinion

We know that many of you think unions are outdated and no longer relevant.

The various newspaper guilds, usually chapters of CWA, obviously think differently.

TNG-CWA reports today on why some still think newspaper unions are still important today.

On the TNG listserv, one member said he wasn’t sure he wanted to renew his membership because the guild’s contract with the AP rewards seniority, which “doesn’t make sense.”

He continued:
“Person A is a subject-matter expert, regularly breaks news, makes the digest, scoops the competition, and gets high marks on his review. He has 2 years at AP. Person B has more experience but his reviews are average. Maybe he’s a general assignment guy. Maybe he has a beat but isn’t wowing anyone. He’s a punch-clock guy, in and out on the dot. There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s doing his job. He’s capable. Certainly nobody wants him to lose his job. But he’s not wowing anyone.

“This contract says person B is more valuable because he is more senior. He can do the same job as person A, the thinking goes, the only thing missing is training. That’s just silly.”

Well, yeah, it is kind of silly, but.

The union’s job is not to reward performance, replied one listserv member. That’s the company’s job.

We think the argument is pretty eloquent—whether you agree with it or not—so we’ll just excerpt some of it here:

Do you really want to work in a competitive environment where your employer and the union both demand productivity and punish those who fall behind? Do you really want the union to reward with job security everyone who works hardest?

I understand that from your perspective it all seems very unfair. You work so hard. AP seems to get it, and insinuates that with hard work comes job security; but then the union turns around and tells you your hard work doesn’t give you job security, seniority does.

Just to close this with one more attempt at explanation: Your benefits, including job security, were not handed to you based on AP’s sense of fairness. They were negotiated on the strength of collective bargaining. That’s where a bunch of employees decide to pool their negotiating strength in order to get more for their skills than AP would otherwise pay. Make sense?

Your compensation does not necessarily reflect market value for your skills. Your compensation is negotiated on the basis of collective strength, not fairness. You get more. That’s why it’s a good thing that the union doesn’t impose work quotas, work quality requirements, performance standards, etc. Leave that to the employer.

Again, the this-is-why-we-need-unions is just one opinion, but the explanation of how and why unions and employers reward different things makes perfect sense. In case you were ever wondering.