By MIKE MCCONNELL
There’s an old saying that the editor’s favorite reporter is seldom the best reporter.
The complications of human interaction and arbitrary behavior by corporate managers can play out in ways that guarantee unfair practices for workers without a collective union voice.
I’m a reporter who writes for the Daily Tribune and Macomb Daily and a member of the Detroit Newspaper Guild Local 34022. The guild also represents members at the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, Observer & Eccentric weekly papers and others.
Less than three years ago, another reporter from a much larger non-union paper in our company sought an opening on our staff. He was a top employee, but he was paid thousands of dollars less each year than those of us represented by the union. He wanted better pay and benefits, even if it meant working at a smaller paper. It didn’t happen and he recently decided to leave journalism.
I’ve personally never had a serious work-related issue where I had to call for union backing in my 20 years in the guild. But I gladly pay my dues because I make more money and have better benefits than my colleagues in the company who lack union representation. I know I have access to union and legal support if a problem comes up.
I also know that corporate managers are invariably a lot more high-handed in their dealings with non-union workers. They don’t have to worry about a union filing a grievance when they violate someone’s rights and they have to face arbitration to explain their decisions.
Even with a union, I’ve found corporations and their executives will often only do the right thing if they are caught and can’t get out of it.
I watched in astonishment about five years ago when a former executive editor suddenly busted the longtime political reporter down to working on the copy desk in the sports department. The political reporter had 100 professional awards to his credit and was among the top in the state. The editor, a Tea Party enthusiast, simply didn’t like the reporter’s politics and lost control of himself.
The union got involved and the reporter got his job back. A short time later the editor was fired. He swam with the sharks for years until that day when his executive overlords decided it was easier to let him go.
I’ve seen that only employees with a collective voice stand a chance of asserting their legal rights in the workplace.
Without a union, you better hope you have the skills to become the boss’s favorite — and a talent for flattery.
Mike McConnell writes for the Daily Tribune and Macomb Daily and is a member of the Detroit Newspaper Guild Local 34022.