A group of unions under the AFL/CIO umbrella has issued a call to protect news teams during the pandemic and the process of reopening.
News workers are considered an essential group of individuals and thus must be protected, according to the Department of Professional Employees, a coalition of 24 unions. As radio and TV broadcasters continue their jobs during the pandemic, DPE issued a set of guidelines calling on employers to ensure that:
- Basic safety guidelines are followed when an individual needs to be in the newsroom, control room, studio or in the field. This includes following government guidelines on social distance and protective measures, with workers supplied adequate personal protective equipment;
- Work that can be done from home should continue to be completed there, with proper tech support for the worker;
- Professional cleaning crews sufficiently disinfect all worksites and field vehicles;
- Employers adopt strict contact tracing plans to self-isolate those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus;
- Layoffs, furloughs and reductions in employee hours should be considered only after all other options have been exhausted.
“News workers have helped tell the story of this pandemic, its heroes and its ramifications,” said DPE in a 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.”
Among the unions endorsing the statement are SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Broadcasting jobs have been hit hard by the pandemic with companies such as Urban One, Cumulus Media and Beasley Media Group cutting or furloughing employees, reducing salaries and taking other steps in the face of the business downturn.
As media companies begin the process of reopening radio properties in some states, employers must continue to be vigilant to protect news workers’ safety, the unions say.