Unions Propose COVID-19 News Worker Guidelines

Communications unions have teamed up to create COVID-19-related news staffer "safety and fairness" standards that they want companies to commit to as states begin to reopen their economies. Those include contract tracing plans and furloughs and layoffs only as "a last resort" and only after discussions with the relevant unions. 

"News is essential, perhaps like never before," the unions said. "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 standards apply both to still-employed news staffers considered essential employees and the thousands more who have lost jobs due to the pandemic. 

The guidelines they want all news staff employers to implement--they call them "bare minimum"--are: 

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."

The unions seeking the guidelines are the Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). 

They are all part of the DPE Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industry Coordinating Committee (AEMI), representing members who work in the arts, entertainment and media industries. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.