Far from being “ineffectual” at the Washington Post (“Small Change,” 5/3), the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild has improved wages, benefits, and working conditions in every contract negotiated since Post workers organized, in the ’30s. The more than 1,400 news and commercial employees covered by the union contract have won pension improvements, gained more vacation and parental leave, held off cost-shifting of health-care increases, and benefited from increased wages—all these not through the largess of the company, which seeks to spend as little as possible in the boom years as well as in tough times, but through their union’s negotiations.

Only in a unionized workplace is the employer required to negotiate with the employees’ chosen representative on everything concerning wages, hours, and working conditions. The union and company must negotiate on virtually everything affecting an employee from the time he or she walks into work in the morning until he or she goes home at night—and beyond, because health care, retirement, family leave, and other leave issues are by law subject to negotiations.

This employees’ voice at work assures that the Post cannot reduce pay and benefits, cannot discipline or fire employees without due process, cannot spy on employees, cannot unilaterally do much of anything. Unilateral actions occur at many a company where no union contract exists, because federal and state laws do not prohibit an employer from reducing your wages, benefits, and even pension. Only a union contract can do that.

The guild may not achieve all of our bargaining goals at every round of negotiations, but far from being ineffectual, the union is the brick wall that keeps the company from doing whatever the heck it wants, damn the cost to workers and their families.

Administrative officer

Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild