By Tatyana Bellamy Walker, Special to Workers World Today
When hyperlocal new sites DNAinfo.com and the Gothamist joined the Writers Guild of America, East, their CEO, Joe Ricketts, retaliated by shuttering the company. Nearly a week before firing more than 150 employees, Ricketts penned a blog post, “Why I’m against Unions at the Businesses I Create,” stating that unions create a “corrosive us against them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.” A spokesperson for DNAinfo told Th,,e New York Times the union might be “the final straw to make the business close.” Shortly after, Ricketts slapped a note on the site’s homepage announcing the closing of New York City’s premier source of local news.
While unions are one of the many ways for workers to advocate for fair treatment in the workplace, organizations are often against workers joining unions because it increases wages and benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, unionized workers earn about 27 percent more than their non-union counterparts. Through unions, workers have the opportunity to receive health insurance, job security, paid vacation, sick time and legal services/advice. Without the aid of unions, employees are sometimes subjugated to abusive work tactics.
For example, unions help negotiate better contractual terms and conditions. In March, Airport Workers United of New York and New Jersey helped thousands of JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airport employees secure a new contract that included a wage increase of $19 per hour. Currently, airport workers in New Jersey make $10.45 per hour, while workers in LaGuardia and JFK make $13 per hour.
As unions continue to provide a collective force in voicing unjust conditions, workers are advised to first build an organizing committee. The organizing committee represents all major departments and reflects a diverse range of people. Workers on this committee warn members of potential union-busting tactics, gather employee information (name, address, phone, job title and shifts) as well as employer information such as parent company, products, customers and union history.
Next, union members are expected to adopt an issues program, which outlines the union demands and improvements set on behalf of the employees. In addition, co-workers are then prompted to sign membership cards, which are used to petition the state or federal union board for an election. If the union wins, it is the employer’s responsibility to recognize and negotiate with the union. Finally, demands for the employer are targeted in the union contract that discusses wages and how disputes must be handled.
Workers’ World Today is a free publication that empowers all workers, regardless of social or political affiliations. Distributed throughout New York City, our paper has a mission to educate workers and provide them with relevant information pertinent to the workforce such as workers’ compensation, discrimination on the job, workers’ rights, and more.