Newsletter: A crazy couple of weeks in Guild land!

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The last two weeks have been absolutely bonkers, so let’s just dive right in!

On August 3, workers at the Dallas Morning News ran an informational picket in 100+ degree weather. They had three shifts and held signs saying, “I cover a community I can’t afford to live in” and “@dallasnews Pay your employees living wages” and “More than praise, journalists need a raise!”

I was happy to be with them on the picket line along with a few members of the community, including the president of the Dallas IUE-CWA local. I pretty much blew out my voice chanting with Autumn PattisonSue Goetinck AmbroseAdithi RamakrishnanLeah Waters and dozens of other Dallas News Guild journalists.

Then the next day members of the Reuters Guild walked out to demand a new fair contract with better pay. “Not only did @ReutersGuild members participate in the first walkout at @thomsonreuters in three decades, but over 90% of members, that’s 300 or so journalists, joined from across the country. From DC to Houston, SF to Chicago, Boston to LA,” they tweeted.

“The walkout had a massive impact on the news file in the US, despite @thomsonreuters claiming otherwise. Stories were filed hours after the news cycle, with numerous errors both factual and grammatical, and many stories were missed.”

A one-day strike alone is not enough to win the contract they deserve, they said, but the job action cemented solidarity among members, demonstrated to management that they are ready to fight, and showed that members understand the immense power they hold.

Guild members have realized the power of withholding our work to demand better pay, benefits and working conditions. We went about 20 years with few large job actions but in just the last two years there have been around 10 strikes, or legitimate strike threats. Escalating to a strike takes time, structure testing and building, but it does help us win.

About 90% of Reuters Guild members joined a one-day strike, including journalists from Washington, DC, Houston, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and L.A.

And then Gannett announced that its second quarter earnings were bad and it would have to impose layoffs. Yes, the industry is struggling. But Gannett is pretty clearly mismanaged at this point. They’re spending millions on executive compensation, stock buybacks and anti-journalist lawyers. The company has lost its way.

To send that message, hundreds of Gannett workers walked off the job for an hour on Thursday and tweeted their frustrations with Gannett. The hashtag #LocalNewsLunchOut became a trending topic on Twitter, reaching at least the third spot from my vantage point. It engaged members all across the U.S. Journalists also replied-all to an email calling on bosses to stop wasting money on frivolous expenses and start investing in newsrooms.

We really are Stronger Together!

There were several additional pages of participants in the Gannett online lunch-out rally.

We’ve unfortunately already tracked at least 65 Gannett folks who have been laid off, including many managers and workers at non-unionized newsrooms. That news is truly terrible and the lack of job security has led so many of us — myself included — to unionize our workplaces in the past several years. Once you unionize you get what’s called “status quo” protections. Danielle Newsome wrote a post explaining what it is and how it can protect you from layoffs, especially in recently-unionized workplaces.

Gannett journalists at the Palm Beach Post had done a trial run of this action just a few days earlier and Kati Kokal, a reporter there, hung a sign on Twitter, declaring, “I’m at lunch!! I’m stepping away from work until 2 pm in solidarity with my fellow Gannett Florida union members… 2+ years is too long to be negotiating a contract!”

“So cool to see 30+ colleagues lunching out and sharing their experiences,” she wrote. “Did you know Gannett has been bargaining a new contract for FOUR YEARS in Jacksonville? Some on this thread haven’t gotten a raise in SIX YEARS.”

Gannett workers at the Indy Star held a memorial service streamed on Twitter, in which the newsroom wore black and talked about how sad they were to have an expired agreement while Gannett dragged its feet. In the contract’s obituary they wrote, “All she ever wanted was to protect Indy Star journalists from unfair treatment, ensure they were paid fairly and equitably, provide lifesaving health care and give them a voice in making decisions about their work lives.”

Tissues were provided.

“We look forward to the day when a new contract is ratified in your honor,” they wrote.

Members of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild held a funeral for their expired contract.

Congrats to the workers of the Everett NewsGuild, who came up with a creative strategy right out of the gate. Mallory Gruben, an education reporter at the Daily Herald, suggested they promote a management-initiated survey to build reader support for their publication and their Guild unit.

“Want to guide the @EverettHerald’s coverage AND show your support for the Everett NewsGuild? Take this Community Listening Survey and use the last question to ask the company to support our union effort,” they tweeted.

The Herald was already asking donors to its Investigative Journalism Fund to share their thoughts on how to make the newspaper the best it can be, Gruben reasoned. “Promoting the survey helps the Everett NewsGuild remind those donors that the union members are the people who DO that work – and it points out ways donors can let the company know that they support our organizing efforts because that’s one way to make this company better.”

Journalists at the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald won their first contract after 984 days of bargaining, along with workers at the Bradenton Herald, who had been negotiating for 786 days. The agreement covers about 100 folks and lays out so many great improvements to these newsrooms. It has guaranteed severance in the event of layoffs, minimum salaries of $52,000 in Miami and $45,000 in Bradenton, a 5% wage increase across the board in Miami and retroactive pay increases back to March 2021. There’s a weekly differential for language certification. They’re locking in the IRS mileage reimbursement, a $50 work-from-home stipend and a brand new healthcare plan that lowers the costs to employees.

The agreement also locks in paid parental leave, several new holidays and contractual vacation. Internal applicants must be given first consideration for open positions.

They secured all of this by staying mobilized and escalating to a one-day strike in April. That was the first U.S. Guild strike outside of NYC in the last 20 years.

The contract is now in front of the members and they’ll vote on ratification in the next couple of days.

Staffers at Canadaland, a podcast and news organization, ratified their first contract, which includes raises and protections for editorial integrity and independence. The workers are members of Canadaland Union and are part of CWA Canada, which is part of The NewsGuild-CWA.

Employees negotiated a 2.5% wage increase — effective immediately — and in each of the next three years, plus a $500 signing bonus.

Other highlights include language safeguarding editorial integrity and independence and a requirement that if the company sells the rights to create a new work based on something produced by staff (such as a TV adaptation of a podcast), union members who contributed to the creation of the original receive a share of the revenue from the sale.

The contract also establishes greater consistency in hiring, raises, vacation, leave, orientation and discipline. It includes an increase to employees’ health spending accounts, four weeks of vacation after four years, and severance of three weeks’ pay for each year of service in the event of layoffs.

Members of the Omaha World-Herald Guild negotiated their second collective bargaining agreement last week, calling it “a day of long-fought-for celebration and relief.” After months of negotiations, they reached a contract in which Lee Enterprises will make “a much-needed and appreciated six-figure investment” in their newsroom.

They won a pay scale that boosts pay, rewards longevity and increases minimums at all levels, a substantial increase in vacation, parental leave and bereavement leave, protection for journalists covering stories in hazardous conditions, increased protections in case of layoffs and improved severance pay.

Their primary goal was to rectify pay disparities between men and women in their newsroom and between their newsroom and their two closest Lee peers in St. Louis and Buffalo. “This contract makes major headway in both directions. Step scales are gender- and color-blind,” they said.  

Welcome to the workers of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who voted to join the Washington-Baltimore News Guild after decades as an independent union, the Richmond Newspapers Professional Association. They’re looking forward to working with other NewsGuild members, especially those who are also part of the Lee Enterprises chain, to protect local journalism and journalism jobs.

Unit President Eric Kolenich, who reports on higher education and health care after more than a decade covering sports, said affiliating with The NewsGuild-CWA will “take some of the load off” of fighting alone. “We don’t even know about all the resources that will be available to us yet,” he said, but he’s especially eager to take advantage of the Guild’s many training opportunities. Joining The NewsGuild “demonstrates @RNPA_union’s commitment to continuing the fight for employees,” he said.

A recent AAJA Voices Investigation, Journalism’s top awards lack diverse judges, highlighted a problem that plagues the entire media landscape.

In April, we called on the Pulitzer Prizes to help address the lack of diversity – not focusing on the make-up of awards committees, but on the composition of newsrooms across the country. We helped organize 180 journalism groups and 357 individuals to sign a letter urging the Pulitzers to help improve diversity and transparency throughout the industry by requiring organizations that submit entries to its awards program to participate in a demographic survey, beginning with the 2024 awards.

The request followed an April 12 Nieman Lab report that there was “crushing resistance” by news organizations to participating in the News Leaders Association’s annual diversity survey. The group, which has collected demographic data for more than 40 years, had planned to have 2,500 organizations participate in its most recent survey, but just 303 media organizations submitted data.

Our April letter asked the Pulitzer Prizes to announce its intent on or before unveiling the 2022 awards on May 9, 2022, which would have given it a full year to figure out the details of implementation and we offered our support to help make the commitment a reality.

Their response? “The Pulitzer board is not in a position to decide in the next week whether it would sign onto adding such a criteria to its awards requirements. To even consider doing so would mean modifying the rules of entry, which is not something the 106-year-old organization does lightly or hastily. The request will be circulated to board members for possible consideration during our summer committee meetings on rules, and if there is support for it, to add to the fall meeting agenda.”

We haven’t heard whether the request has been circulated to board members or whether it’s been added to the fall meeting agenda. So, we’re re-upping the request: Pulitzers, how’s it going?

Are you looking for an editing job focused on labor? Labor Notes, an educational, training, labor-focused news nonprofit, is hiring an assistant editor. They’re a great organization that we’ve partnered with to do our contract campaign training and our anti-harassment training earlier this year. We also had more than 100 members at their conference in June.

They’re looking for someone to plan coverage and write, solicit and edit articles for their website and monthly newspaper. They also need that person to work on emails, flyers, workshop descriptions and grant proposals. I cannot speak highly enough of Labor Notes and while I’d be sad to lose a Guild member, I definitely think Guild members should apply. See more information about the job and how to apply on their website.

We’re still challenging Standard General’s ongoing effort to take over local news broadcaster TEGNA and cut journalism jobs in a filing before the FCC two weeks ago.

Wall Street is killing local news, destroying jobs, and hampering our ability to provide the news coverage our communities need. This is just the latest example.

In its lengthy July response to our earlier challenge, Standard General argued that the acquisition of TEGNA would create a diverse news company with a person of color and a woman at the top.

We fully support diversity in leadership, but true diversity requires much more than two figureheads at the top of a company, we wrote in the filing, which was joined by Common Cause and the United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry.

We also noted that Standard General can only take over TEGNA through a series of complex transactions that will result in a pile of debt. And that debt will be paid off through severe job cuts. And we pointed out the lack of transparency in the deal.

As the largest union of journalists in North America it is imperative that we fight for jobs. The FCC is reviewing Standard General’s attempt to take over TEGNA and will issue a decision in the coming weeks.

We’ve got lots of great training sessions scheduled through September. Upcoming events are listed on our calendar, with new events added frequently.

Effective Meeting Facilitation – 6-7 pm ET, Wed, Aug 17
Register here.
Steward Training Module 5: A Union Representative – 12-2 pm ET, Sat, Aug 20
Register here. (You can register for these steward training sessions, even if you missed previous modules.)
Defending Our Rights – 6:30-8:30 pm ET, Thurs, Aug 25
Register here.
Organizing Around Grievances – 6-8 pm ET, Mon Aug 29
Register here.
Beating Back Bullying Bosses – 7-0 pm ET, Thurs, Sept 8
Register here.
Steward Training Module 6: Anti-Harassment Workshop – 12-2 pm ET, Sat, Sept 10
Register here. (You can register for these steward training sessions, even if you missed previous modules.)
Labor Law 101 – 6-8 pm ET, Sat, Sept 13
Register here.
Grievance Handling: Best and Worst Practices – 6-7:30 pm ET, Thurs, Sept 15
Register here.
Defending Our Rights – 1-3 pm ET, St, Sept 24
Register here.
Organizing Around Grievances – 6-8 pm ET, Tues, Sept 27
Register here.

NewsGuild members have been making news! Here are some clips.

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, NewsGuild-CWA

Photo at top: Members of the Dallas News Guild picketed in 100+ degree heat.