Communication Entry-Level Professionals’ Attitudes
Toward Unions and Workplace Rights


Hugh J. Martin, Tudor Vlad and Lee B. Becker


Trade publications offer conflicting views on the future and effectiveness of mass media unions. Recent strikes by unionized newspaper journalists (Wenner, 2001) and unionized television technicians (McClellan, 1998) highlighted declining membership and difficulties negotiating with management. A union has made progress, however, in efforts to outlaw contract restrictions that keep broadcast journalists from working for competing stations (Trigoboff, 1998).

One group of critical importance to the future of mass communication unions is young workers just beginning their careers. Unions need support from new workers to survive. Communication workers also have the potential to greatly influence how unions are presented to the larger public.

Union membership among working journalists declined from 29% in 1971 to 17% in 1982-1983, according to one survey (Weaver & Wilhoit, 1986, p. 107). A second survey of journalists in 1992 showed the percentage of union members was unchanged (Weaver & Wilhoit, 1996, p. 130). Neither survey asked for opinions about unions or workplace rights. The surveys also did not include mass communication workers in fields such as advertising and public relations.

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