NewsGuild-CWA journalists ask tough questions on Equal Pay Day
Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, the gender wage gap endures. President Kennedy passes out pens on June 10, 1963, after signing the Equal Pay Act. | Harvey Georges/AP

Union journalists on Equal Pay Day, journalists of The NewsGuild-CWA, are asking a tough question of their own employers: Why are women and people of color, on average, paid less than their white, male counterparts at news organizations across the country?

“It was stunning news,” said Melanie Burney, a 19-year employee of the Philadelphia Inquirer, after learning that her pay was significantly lower than similarly situated white, male colleagues. Initially, she considered it a personal concern, but she soon began to see it as part of a bigger fight for equality and civil rights.

Ms. Burney is not alone. Study after study conducted by The NewsGuild show that unfair pay practices are rampant at news organizations, including some of the nation’s most prestigious publications. (The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia has made strides in narrowing the gap at the Inquirer, Daily News and through negotiations with management, but is still working to resolve Ms. Burney’s complaint.)

Pay inequities have contributed to a surge in unionizing at news organizations over the last few years, including at publications as varied as the Chicago Tribune, the Hartford Courant, the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Massachusetts.

Reporters, editors, photographers, and other news industry employees have learned that one of the best ways to fight for equal pay is to join a union. Collective bargaining gives workers a way to stand together, share information, and address inequality in their workplace.

Union locals have gained access to pay data, noted discrepancies, armed NewsGuild members with the analysis needed to win raises, and negotiated salary increases and hiring practices that promote diversity. Although management rarely admits that pay disparities exist, they often grant raises when confronted with the Guild’s analysis of the data.

The NewsGuild has a message for workers at non-union companies: If you want to take a concrete step today toward equal pay at your news organization, talk to your colleagues about joining together in a union. Our power to win equal pay and fair employment practices rests on our ability to stand together and demand transparency, expose unfair pay practices, and demand that management address the problem across the board.

Here’s what some NewsGuild members are saying about the fight for equal pay:

“It was stunning news to find out that my pay isn’t comparable to some of my colleagues. Absolutely stunning. I,nitially my concern was personal. But this is one of the most pressing civil rights issues of the day for women and journalists of color. We want to be paid based on the content of our journalism and not the color of our skin. We’re still fighting.”

— Melanie Burney, education reporter, Philadelphia Inquirer

“A female co-worker seemed uncomfortable when she approached me in the parking lot and asked me how much money I made. I made a lot more than she did, even though we had the same educational experience and she had more work experience. Similar conversations with the same results sparked our union campaign. Fighting for equal pay is going to be a priority for our new union.”

– Dusty Christensen of the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild

“The whole issue of pay is shrouded in mystery. That’s an advantage for the company. It’s hard to assess if we’re being paid fairly and whether there are discrepancies based on gender. Not knowing is the big issue.”

– Daniela Altimari, politics reporter at the Hartford Courant

“The union gave people a way to prove that everything they had suspected about inequity was true.”

– Kristina Bui, multi-platform editor, Los Angeles Times

“When I learned a union had the right to pay data during the bargaining process — and that said data could be scientifically analyzed to determine if pay discrimination exists — I was floored. Why weren’t people talking about this? It seemed like half-a-reason to unionize in and of itself.”

– Charlie Johnson, homepage editor, Chicago Tribune


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.