Chalkbeat and the WGA East have reached their first collective bargaining agreement, which has been unanimously ratified by the digital news organization’s 30-member bargaining unit that includes writers, editors and video producers.
“The Chalkbeat Guild is made up of people who provide essential local education news,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “This contract demonstrates the nonprofit news organization’s commitment to providing its dedicated editorial staff with fair pay, benefits, and safe working conditions.”
The 2½-year contract sets salary minimums beginning at $58,000 and provides parents with 14 weeks of paid parental leave, plus the option to work part-time for four weeks at their full salary. The contract also includes Chalkbeat’s first policy guaranteeing compensation time when covered employees work unusually long hours or during scheduled time off.
The WGA East, which earlier this year paused its aggressive organizing efforts of digital news organizations, notes that “Chalkbeat organized with the WGA East in August 2020, before the pause on digital news was in place.” That pause came after members and elected leaders expressed concern that film and TV writers could soon me outnumbered by those employed by broadcast and digital news outlets. Film and scripted TV writers and broadcast news writers have long been the guild’s core constituency.
Elizabeth Green, CEO and co-founder of Chalkbeat, said that “From its conception, Chalkbeat has been dedicated to creating a new model for sustainable, nonprofit journalism. This agreement marks an important development in our progression as a newsroom. Our contract sets important workplace standards that benefit both our newsroom and our staff. Even more noteworthy was the collaborative and respectful manner in which management and the Guild came together to build a stronger Chalkbeat. We look forward to continuing to work together in a spirit of collegiality and mutual respect.”
The new contract also includes:
• 3.5% minimum guaranteed annual raise in 2022 and 2023;
• Minimum salary for reporters, strategists and digital producers will go up to $60,000 by the end of the contract;
• Nearly 14% of members in the bargaining unit will receive an immediate wage increase as a result of the minimum salaries;
• Health benefits that include gender affirming coverage in compliance with standards set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health;
• A commitment to an inclusive workplace, with agreement that 40% of the hiring pool must include underrepresented groups at Chalkbeat for each open position;
• A guaranteed workplace lactation room or accommodation to work from home if not available or satisfactory to the lactating person
• Stipulation that Chalkbeat cannot require complainant to sign a non-disclosure agreement for sexual harassment complaints, and cannot require a non-compete clause in post-employment contracts, nor a forced arbitration clause as a condition of employment;
• Gender neutral bathrooms and accommodation to work from home if not available or satisfactory to the employee;
• Stipends for cell phone and professional development;
• Formation of a Labor Management Committee;
• Just cause and union security.
“Our members unanimously voted yes on our first contract because these issues were such a priority,” said the WGA/Chalkbeat bargaining committee. “We’re all excited to have better guidelines that we know will make Chalkbeat a better place to work. Organizing as a union has already helped our unit members feel more connected, sharing their various work experiences across the country, and working together to make sure we all have better working conditions. We’re excited that Chalkbeat ultimately heard our concerns, and we’re certain the new contract will lead to even more powerful journalism. Strong journalists make for a strong Chalkbeat.”
The guild represents nearly 7,000 writers in film, television, news (broadcast and digital), and podcasts. In addition to Chalkbeat, it also represents newsrooms at ABC News; CBS News; CBSN; MSNBC; Salon; Slate; MTV News; HuffPost, Inc.; Hearst Magazine; VICE; Vox Media; The Intercept; Gizmodo Media Group; Onion Inc.; 1010 WINS; Audacy (WCBS-AM, WBBM-AM, KNX-AM); Fox 5 WNYW-TV; WBBM-CBS 2 News; Thirteen Productions (Thirteen/WNET); Talking Points Memo; Thrillist; The Dodo; Fast Company; Bustle Digital Group; FT Specialist; Future Plc; Jewish Currents; NowThis; Refinery29, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
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