Coronavirus Update #4 | You Are Essential
As the PAUSE executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlines, the news media is an essential service while New York State shutters all “nonessential” businesses and restricts physical interactions to slow the spread of coronavirus in our region, which has seen a major jump in cases after more testing was put in place. That journalism is essential, especially in this moment, is without question. These past few weeks have been an example of what has been — and for the foreseeable immediate future will be — an exhaustive effort to stay ahead of this story and keep the public informed.
But journalism in a time of crisis isn’t just about the crisis. Our Guild is proud to represent and advocate for journalists and media workers who cover, edit, opine, assess and analyze everything else that is still happening in our cities, states, country and world. So whether you’re in the midst of COVID-19 coverage, or assessing how best to work remotely, reporting on an Instagram live dance party or reviewing performances that are available for streaming to get us all through a hard time, the Guild is here for you.
While many of you will continue to work remotely or in the field, several of our units are considered nonessential under Governor Cuomo’s order — meaning that as of 8 p.m. Monday, March 23, those employees are mandated to work from home. The vast majority of our employers have already made the shift to remote work, and we are in conversation with them and others to understand how this order will affect working conditions off site. We believe that for most of our units, both essential and nonessential work can be completed remotely.
If you need documentation of employment, specifying that you are an essential employee, please reach out Membership Associate Tim Try at email@example.com.
COVID-19 at Hudson News
In addition to media workers and journalists, the Guild also represents over 300 employees of Hudson News stores at Penn Station, Port Authority and Grand Central Station. As a result of physical distancing and travel restrictions, those stores have seen a rapid decline in customers, and last week Hudson News management told us they were gearing up for substantial layoffs.
The Guild successfully worked with management to avoid layoffs and, instead, convert the proposed layoffs into a combination of voluntary leaves of absence and rotating staff furloughs. Guild members will work reduced hours, be able to collect unemployment benefits and return to a full schedule once this crisis has passed.
Unfortunately, one of our members at Hudson News has tested positive for the virus; they are in quarantine and recovering. In response, management is closing its Penn Station stores for 14 to 21 days. Any member who was exposed will receive full pay. For everyone else, the furloughs will be implemented as agreed.
Reinforcing Job Security in a Crisis
I’ve been hearing from members across several bargaining units who are justifiably worried about layoffs, even as they are working harder than ever. The Guild will do everything in its power to stave off and reduce job loss in all of our workplaces. We know that for many units, site traffic is at an all-time high. Local and unit representatives remain in contact with management, not only discussing health and safety protocols, but also how business will be conducted as we navigate this new professional culture. If you have concerns or questions about job protections, please reach out to your unit leaders or Local Representative. We will be talking more about this in the coming weeks as the impact on our industry becomes clearer.
The Guild’s coronavirus update page is full of helpful resources and information, like this guide from Scholastic for parents. It also has good information for workers in general, like a chart from the New York State AFL-CIO that lets everyone know what benefits they’re entitled to under the new federal and state corona-related legislations. I know everyone has a lot of email to keep track of, but it’s important for us to stay in contact, so please ask your colleagues if they’re getting Guild communications, and if they are not, direct them to our website to ensure they are up to date.
President | The NewsGuild of New York
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