As the economy begins to reopen, unions covering newsroom workers are encouraging employers to “protect as many jobs as possible during this crisis” and to adopt coronavirus testing and “strict contact tracing” protocols to prevent the spread of the virus among news teams.
“Thousands of workers across the media industry have been working through this crisis. News workers have helped tell the story of this pandemic, its heroes and its ramifications,” said SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, the WGA East, IATSE, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in a joint statement. “At the same time, thousands more in the industry have lost jobs along with millions of other Americans. News is essential, perhaps like never before. As parts of our society and economy begin to reopen, we want to do everything we can to make sure media workers have safe and fair workplaces.”
The unions, which are affiliates of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, are calling on all employers in the news industry to follow five basic guidelines, which they say “should be the bare minimum.” They also say that employers “should take additional precautions, such as testing and screening protocols, where appropriate.”
1. All work that can be done from home should be done from home if the worker so chooses, with proper tech support.
2. When work must be done in the newsroom, control room, studio, or in the field, basic CDC and OSHA guidelines on social distancing and protective measures should be mandated, with each worker supplied with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
3. All worksites and field vehicles should be equipped with sufficient disinfectant supplies and disinfected by professional cleaning crews regularly to ensure the best possible hygiene in all work areas.
4. Employers should adopt strict contact tracing plans to self-isolate those who may have been exposed to anyone who tests positive or exhibits symptoms consistent with the virus.
5. Layoffs, furloughs and reductions in employees’ hours should only be considered after all other options have been exhausted. Before any reductions in hours/days for freelance and temporary workers or furloughs or layoffs of staff workers, there should be good faith discussions between the union and management (with financial transparency) to settle on the best course of action to ensure high-quality journalism and protect as many jobs as possible during this crisis.