Why form a union?
A union will give the journalists in our newsroom a greater voice in how we cover our community and adapt to the changing media landscape.
Today, most major newsroom decisions are made by out-of-state executives who, however well-intentioned, do not have the same intimate knowledge of our community we do and have a financial obligation to prioritize shareholders’ interests. A union lets us take advantage of our rights under federal law to have a seat at the table when major decisions are made, including reorganizations, staff reductions, salaries, benefits and other work conditions.
How does the process work?
- Once we have a majority of people in favor, we submit “pledge cards” signed by staffers backing the union and ask to be recognized by management. (We did this.)
- We are either voluntarily recognized by management or, more likely, Gannett works with the National Labor Relations Board to set up an election date which typically happens within 30 days.
- If more than half of the newsroom votes to approve, our newspaper will officially be unionized.
- Then we move on to negotiating a contract with Gannett. Everything brought to the bargaining table would be discussed by members beforehand and would have to be approved by them afterward.
What’s in it for me?
A union allows us to negotiate collectively for things like pay raises, benefits and working conditions, giving us more leverage than we would have on our own. A union also helps to ensure transparency and fairness in how decisions are made. Right now, most newsroom decisions are made behind closed doors and are later announced in an email or a newsroom meeting with no input from those affected.
Who is eligible to join?
Any full-time or part-time newsroom employee who is not a manager would be represented by the union.
Is this about newsroom management?
Not at all. Our newsroom leaders have worked for more than a decade to navigate tremendous industry change and make painful decisions compassionately, and they deserve a lot of credit for doing so. But they are ultimately accountable to corporate executives who have a fiduciary duty to prioritize profit.
Local managers need our help to ensure that future changes are made with the best interests of the newsroom and community in mind. After all, we all want the same thing: a strong, collaborative newsroom that produces excellent journalism.
Can I be fired or demoted for trying to join a union?
Federal law prohibits any form of retaliation against employees for working to unionize or collectively bargain with their employer. Companies that violate these protections face federal sanctions.
But without a union, you are an “at will” employee who can be fired at any time for almost any reason.
Many of Gannett’s newspapers are already unionized, including large properties such as the Detroit Free-Press, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Arizona Republic, so the company is accustomed to working with them.
(Outside of Gannett, hundreds of other papers are unionized, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.)
This all sounds great but how much will it cost?
Union dues would be 1.38 percent of our salaries, but we would start paying dues only after we approve a contract with Gannett. Typically, unionized newsrooms don’t vote to approve those contracts unless they include a raise that more than offsets the cost of dues.