Chalkbeat and Writers Guild of America, East Reach First Union Contract
NEW YORK, NY (December 10, 2021) — Chalkbeat and the Writers Guild of America, East have reached their first collective bargaining agreement. The 30-member bargaining unit unanimously ratified the agreement on Friday, December 3.
The Chalkbeat bargaining committee said, “ Our members unanimously voted yes on our first contract because these issues were such a priority. 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 2.5 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-ever policy that guarantees compensation time when unit members work unusually long hours or during scheduled time off.
Elizabeth Green, CEO and co-Founder of Chalkbeat, said, “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.”
Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East, added, “The Chalkbeat GuildUnion is made up of people who provide essential local education news. This contract demonstrates the nonprofit news organizations’s commitment to providing its dedicated editorial staff with fair pay, benefits, and safe working conditions.”
The 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 this 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.
The Writers Guild of America, East and Chalkbeat both are advocating for the Local News Journalist Compensation Credit inclusion in the Build Back Better Act, which would provide essential funds to support newspapers, websites, radio and TV stations, and other outlets that primarily cover local news.
Launched in 2014, Chalkbeat is an award-winning nonprofit news organization committed to covering one of America’s most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education. To date, the organization reports from and about eight locations — Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Indiana, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, and Tennessee — plus a national news desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chalkbeat’s reporting was a crucial source of education news for readers, shedding light on how school districts and charter schools were navigating the unique challenges of the past year and spurring real-world impact in communities.
Chalkbeat serves as an example of how a vertical, nonprofit newsroom can be a model for preserving local news and the role it plays in a healthy and well-functioning democracy. In six years, the newsroom grew from two to eight news bureaus. The organization, which publishes more than 200 stories per month, is a go-to source for education news in all of its local markets and has partnered with the Associated Press, ProPublica, and The New York Times.
ABOUT WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in film, television, news and new media. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit wgaeast.org.