Newsletter: Mourning a Guild mentor, celebrating a successful strike

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Happy Thursday! 

First, last year’s NewsGuild-CWA numbers were incredible. Members held 21 work stoppages, including the two open-ended strikes in Pittsburgh and Fort Worth. We welcomed 1,999 new members from 35 newly unionized workplaces. And Guild members won 71 contracts last year, including 31 first contracts! Congratulations to all!

We had sad news last week. We lost a beloved retired NewsGuild staff rep, Bruce Nelson. Bruce died last Tuesday, January 10. He helped mentor and build up Guild members for three decades, until he retired in 2015. Born in St. Cloud, Minn., he spent his career involved in journalism, first as an award-winning reporter in Minnesota and then as a Guild staff rep. He worked alongside members at nearly every Guild paper, including the Washington Post, Albany Times Union, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Sun Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Tomorrow, several Guild members will gather to celebrate Bruce’s life. Funeral services will be held on Friday, Jan. 20, at Donaldson Funeral Home in Laurel, Maryland. Services begin at 1pm.  

Members are now three months into their strike in Pittsburgh! I’ve been with members here and they’re doing amazing things. They’ve launched a petition calling for the removal of Allan Block, one of the Post-Gazette owners, from C-SPAN’s board. They’re telling the Pittsburgh Steelers to drop their relationship with the PG. 

Please take two minutes and add your name to those petitions!

Despite these wins, the PG has refused to bargain and settle the strike. 

To be clear, our demands are simple and reasonable: that the PG reinstate workers’ health coverage and agree to follow federal labor law. That’s it!  

Their stall tactics won’t work. We’ve raised more than $207k to support striking workers, and are continuing to grow that number! This week we’re aiming to raise $40k, which just so happens to be the amount of bonuses the PG recently handed to people crossing the picket line. 

Can you stand in solidarity and contribute right now? 

The amazing journalists at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram won their strike! After 24 days on the line, they won a very good first contract and ratified it unanimously. This contract raised the salary floor from McClatchy’s $45,000 up to $52,000 for current staffers. They won gender-inclusive language on family leave allowances when a worker has a child. They won more flexibility on bereavement leave. And so much more! Congrats to our awesome members in Texas! 

Side note, major props to the Tarrant County Labor Council, who showed up from day one to picket with folks — and brought Scabby the Rat! Also thanks to the Texas AFL-CIO and CWA District 6 for supporting our folks! Workers raised more than $50,000 to support their strike. 

We had our first ever virtual nominating conference in early January. If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing on Facebook. An amazing crop of new leaders is stepping up. Nine Executive Council positions were filled for terms that will begin in July. You can see the full list of members and read more about our new EC on our website

Need a map of all the regions? See that here. 

We also got to thank the current Executive Council leaders, which is filled with folks who have dedicated many years of their lives to our collective fight. Congrats to everyone and my huge appreciation for everyone who’s leaving us and made our union strong for many decades!

Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined our call to stop the hedge fund takeover of local news. Did you see her powerful letter to the Federal Communications Commission, asking them to intervene in the attempted takeover of TEGNA by hedge fund Standard General? Thank you, Sen. Warren for joining our call: protect media jobs and stop the hedge fund takeover of local news!

Steward training is continuing. Next Wednesday we’ll have Module 2: A Workplace Organizer, followed by four more modules every other week through March. See and register for events on our calendar.

I feel so inspired to work with all of y’all every day. We have a righteous fight on our hands and we are WINNING. Keep it up!

In solidarity,

Striking journalists at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram picketing in the neighborhood of editor-in-chief Steve Coffman on December 12, 2022.

Newsletter: The best holiday gift is a fair contract

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All around the country, NewsGuild members are rising up to demand a fair contract.

The New York Times Guild walked off the job on Thursday, in a one-day work stoppage with a super majority of the entire place participating. Not only are reporters, photographers and other newsroom workers part of the Guild, but so are editorial assistants, security guards, IT specialists and many others.

Some of these workers earn as little as $52,000 a year and are expected to live in New York City. That, and an unfair labor practice, are a major reason more than 1,100 workers walked out last week. Claudia Irizarry Aponte spent time talking with the lower paid workers at the New York Times to tell their stories.

Continue reading “Newsletter: The best holiday gift is a fair contract”

Newsletter: We are on strike everywhere!

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We are in our seventh week on strike in Pittsburgh and our members there are so brave amid truly illogical and illegal behavior by the Post-Gazette’s hired attorneys. Tuesday’s bargaining session was a joke.

Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh President Zack Tanner, left, confers with member Hallie Lauer in a caucus with the union’s bargaining committee during the third bargaining session this year with the company on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

At one point, a Guild member asked Richard Lowe, the King & Ballow attorney representing the Post-Gazette, if there were any changes that could be made to the guild’s health care proposal that the company would consider.

“We are staying with our proposals, and we think they’re better,” Lowe said. “To answer your question, no, there are not.”

What are their proposals? The company is sticking with the same proposals from two-and-a-half years ago before they illegally imposed on our members.

Continue reading “Newsletter: We are on strike everywhere!”

America’s journalists will continue to fight Gannett’s self-destruction and will fight to rebuild local news

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (December 1, 2022) — Jon Schleuss, president of The NewsGuild-CWA, released the following statement regarding Gannett’s announcement of layoffs:

“Local news is being murdered by firms like Gannett. The company insists there’s no other way, that the cuts are necessary to ensure that Gannett remains financially viable. Meanwhile, the same Gannett is burning millions on debt service, executive pay, stock buybacks and anti-worker lawyers. Gannett exists to feed Wall Street at the expense of workers, readers and subscribers. What Gannett fails to remember is that the company’s value was built by its workers and through the commitment and support of their readers. Gannett’s workers are fighting to return Gannett back to a local news company.

Continue reading “America’s journalists will continue to fight Gannett’s self-destruction and will fight to rebuild local news”
View of the Federal Communications Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 2020.

FCC and DOJ have more than enough reasons to stop the Wall Street takeover of America’s local newsrooms

Today The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA) responded to Standard General’s new FCC filing that attempted to rebut the detailed showing that TNG-CWA and the National Association of Broadcast Employees-CWA (NABET-CWA) submitted to the FCC after reviewing the hedge fund’s and related parties’ confidential filings. Standard General, backed by Apollo Global Management, is attempting to take over TEGNA’s 64 local TV stations.

TNG-CWA’s President Jon Schleuss said the following:

“Journalists are advocates for the truth and Standard General’s most recent attempt to brush off their repeated promises to bankers of station-level job cuts doesn’t pass our standards. Standard General repeatedly asserted on the record to the FCC that it ‘does not intend to reduce station-level staffing’ but its 12 major lenders apparently relied on Standard General’s financial projections showing just the opposite.”

Continue reading “FCC and DOJ have more than enough reasons to stop the Wall Street takeover of America’s local newsrooms”

Hundreds of local Gannett journalists go on strike today

A supermajority of journalists from The Desert Sun, Arizona Republic, and 12 newsrooms in New Jersey and New York including the Record, Asbury Park Press and The Journal News are walking off of the job today in protest of Gannett’s austerity measures which are devastating local news around the country. 

This is the biggest coordinated action from union employees after Gannett laid off 3% of its staff in August, announced more cost-cutting measures in October, and follows a day after the release of their Q3 earnings report 

NATIONAL – Over 200 union journalists across 14 Gannett owned-newsrooms from New York and New Jersey to Arizona and Southern California collectively walked off the job for a one-day strike today. Hundreds more across various other Gannett newsrooms in Austin, Florida, Ohio, Milwaukee and elsewhere are taking a coordinated lunch-time walkout or staging visible pickets in their city in solidarity with their colleagues who are out on strike. 

This action is in response to the company laying off 400 employees and cutting another 400 open positions in August, which represented 3% of staff, followed by additional cost-cutting austerity measures announced in October which included furloughs and cuts to the 401k plan. These devastating cuts to local newsrooms come on the heels of Gannett  announcing a $100M stock buyback program for shareholders in February, directing critical funding away from local newsrooms and to rich shareholders.

Last month, the Economic Policy Institute reported that CEO pay has skyrocketed 1,460% since 1978 and the average CEO is paid hundreds of times as much as a typical worker in 2021. Gannett is no exception. Gannett CEO Mike Reed receives an $8 million annual salary—160 times the median salary of a Gannett worker.

All the while, Gannett has been stalling on bargaining at various tables across the unionized newsrooms, and not bargaining in good faith around demands for family-wage salaries, adequate staffing, and diverse newsrooms. 

Workers taking the one day walkout will be publishing news on Gannett Union Press (, a strike paper created to continue coverage of important events that the community depends on, like local sports. Additionally, Gannett media workers have launched a GoFundMe to support strikers facing financial hardship due to the strike and their employer’s poverty wages. Many reporters have reported needing to rely on food stamps and housing assistance to get by.

“Rochester’s newsroom has a proud union legacy that dates back to 1935. Some of our predecessors’ contract fights have gone on for well over a decade. Our most recent contract expired in 2019 and we don’t intend to go down that long of a road again,” said Tracy Schuhmacher, Food and Drink Reporter, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “We are excited to be joining forces with Gannett’s newest unions and we’re ready to fight for equitable, living wages at Gannett.”

This one day strike follows in the footsteps of other national collective action by unionized Gannett workers in recent months including a coordinated “lunch-out” in early August where hundreds of workers rallied during lunch time in protest of layoffs, and a “Rally to Save Local News” Town Hall where non-union members, labor and elected leaders, including Florida Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and New York State Senator James Skoufis, as well as musician and activist Billy Bragg attended. The NewsGuild-CWA currently represents around 50 Gannett-owned newsrooms all across the country.

“We have consistently reported about growing prices and cost of living becoming untenable in places like Phoenix, and at the same time Gannett has only made it more expensive through attempting to cut our benefits, making our already pitiful insurance plan more expensive, and refusing to give cost of living increases,” said Joseph Darius Jaafari, Investigative Reporter, The Arizona Republic. “It’s clear that Gannett isn’t in the business of making sure newspapers and democracy thrives; the company, its executives, and their shareholders would rather stuff their pockets before ever assuring a well-educated public. This walkout should show them we’re serious, and that they need to move fast, because three years to negotiate a contract is an embarrassment.”

“Gannett is actively sabotaging our democracy by attacking its own journalists,” said Jon Schleuss, President, NewsGuild-CWA. “The company has the money to invest in journalists and it should start doing that immediately instead of fighting them.” 

“Gannett has no news to print, no stories to publish online, no photos, no content to share without the hard work and dedication of our members,” said Susan DeCarava, President, NewsGuild of New York. “Gannett executives have been robbing journalists and the communities they serve by decimating newsrooms and underpaying workers while lavishing company executives  with extravagant pay, outrageous bonuses and artificially inflating the value of stocks with buyback schemes. We have had enough.” 

“Local journalists are sick and tired of getting jerked around by Gannett, where corporate bosses have dragged their feet for years to avoid reaching fair contracts with their own employees,” said Matt Pearce, President, Media Guild of the West. 

In Gannett Co.’s Q3 Quarterly Earnings Report released yesterday, the company cited as among the factors that could affect its bottom line: “Our ability to recruit and retain key personnel.” Adequately staffed newsrooms that are as  diverse as the communities they serve has been a core union demand at Gannett . 

“The earnings report issued by Gannett yesterday once again shows that Mike Reed’s solutions to the problems facing the company revolve around punishing employees: cutting jobs and cutting compensation is not the pathway to sustainable journalism,” said Tony Daley, Economist, CWA. “The announcement of a reduction of 400 jobs and another 400 vacancies that will not be filled along with furloughs and retirement cuts show a monumental lack of imagination. As much as Reed touts the company’s commitment to journalism, the cutbacks tell the real story: cut newsrooms and the result is the delivery of less news to the communities we serve. Reed’s corporate double-speak needs to be sanctioned by stakeholders. We need leadership that worries less about stock prices and their salaries than about where this company will be in 5, 10, or 20 years.”

Striking Gannett workers as well as colleagues from other unionized and non-unionized newsrooms and the wider community are gathering for a Zoom rally at 1 pm ET to hear about why this action is important and why this is an unfortunate but necessary step forward.

Newsletter: We are on strike in Pittsburgh and need your help

“The last few days have been wild!” is what I reply when people ask how things are going or how folks are doing in Pittsburgh. I’ll get into more down below, but the TLDR is that our members are on strike right now in Pittsburgh and they need your help right now!

Here’s what you can do right now:

Donate to the striker fund. We worked with our amazing family at The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia and CWA to set up a strike supporter fund. This will help any worker on strike (Guild-CWA-Teamsters) who faces hardship and needs help above and beyond the strike benefits workers get. Your contribution will help someone cover rent or mortgage, take care of a family member and make sure they’re fed. Donate what you can here. Note, we cannot accept contributions from any employers whose employees are represented by TNG, CWA or IBT.

Continue reading “Newsletter: We are on strike in Pittsburgh and need your help”

Digital journalists in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois join Gannett organizing wave

Employees of Gannett’s Midwest Digital Optimization Team (DOT) announced on Thursday that they have formed a union – the Midwest Digital Guild. The new unit will include approximately 15 digital journalists of varied backgrounds and career experience, all of whom serve a key role in producing and managing digital content across Gannett properties in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. They will be part of the Indianapolis NewsGuild, TNG-CWA Local 34070.

“If you’ve read a story online from the IndyStar, Louisville Courier Journal or one of the many other publications across Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, it found its way to you because of the work and influence of a Midwest DOT Digital Producer,” said Jenny Porter Tilley, lead Indiana producer.

The Midwest DOT is the second Midwestern Gannett property to unionize in 2022, following the Courier Journal Guild announcement on August 30. NLRB election results for the Courier Journal staff are anticipated on November 18.

“We couldn’t do what we do at the Courier Journal without the help of the Midwest DOT,” said Courier Journal food writer Dahlia Ghabour. “We are constantly told by Gannett leadership we are a digital-first organization, which means the Digital Optimization Team is extremely valuable. They deserve to be paid like they’re valuable too.” 

Guild members at the Midwest DOT have demanded that Gannett answer for dismally low, uncompetitive wages for digital producers, repeated cuts to benefits (like those announced just last week), and understaffing, among other issues. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gannett restructured its digital production workforce, creating fully remote Digital Optimization Teams that separated producers from their home newsrooms. Some Midwest DOT producers were invited to reapply for jobs they had held for years, while others were furloughed – with no additional resources given to those few remaining staff left with an untenable workload.

“Gannett has proven time and time again that we are on our own as employees,” Rosalind Bowling, a Midwest DOT digital producer, said. “We will not back down, and we will continue working tirelessly to protect each other. Gannett has given us rage, and now it’s time we use it.”

Midwest Digital Guild members are fighting for the future of journalism. Per the Guild’s mission statement: “Our members shouldn’t be working multiple jobs to support ourselves. We should be focused on the critical work we do connecting our communities with the vital news they need.”

The Midwest Digital Guild and The Courier Journal Guild are just two of the many Gannett properties to unionize in the latest wave of media organizing. Members at other Gannett unions have been organizing together to demand accountability from Gannett as the company continues to chip away at morale and working conditions in newsrooms across the country.

Jenna Watson, IndyStar staff member and president of the Indianapolis News Guild, lauded the Midwest DOT team for rejecting Gannett’s narrative and demanding a seat at the table. 

“This isn’t just about our lives at work,” Watson said. “It’s about pushing our parent company to invest in its journalism at the local level, so we can keep serving our communities the way they deserve. We must save local journalism.”

Midwest Digital Guild members and their union siblings at other Gannett properties are calling on community allies to stand in support of fair pay and dignity at work for digital producers and journalists across Gannett.
Follow them on Twitter @MidwestDOTGuild

Gannett’s latest proves the importance of building a strong union

This afternoon Gannett announced plans to cut employee benefits, push buyouts and require non-union employees to take unpaid leave. This announcement came only two months after the company laid off 400 employees and cut another 400 open positions. Gannett’s executives continued to make their motives clear, despite their mission “to build trusted local communities where people thrive.” 

The following statement can be attributed to NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss

Gannett only cares about cutting costs by bleeding newsrooms dry. Gannett doesn’t care about journalists, the local news our communities depend on nor the survival of one of the most important pillars of our democracy.

The only way to fight back is to build a strong union in every newsroom in North America. Many of these cuts will not immediately impact newly unionized newsrooms and Gannett has a legal obligation to bargain over any changes with its workers. 

Hundreds of Gannett journalists are organizing across the country to force Gannett to put people over profits. Journalists hold companies — Gannett included — to account every single day.

America’s journalists call on Gannett to cease the cutting, invest in our newsrooms and pay journalists enough to thrive in the communities they cover. Gannett should eliminate its extravagant executive pay, fire its anti-journalist lawyers and immediately suspend its stock buyback program.

Gannett cannot cut its way out of financial mismanagement. It must invest in journalists if it has any chance to grow. Every American, every community and our democracy depend on it.

About The NewsGuild-CWA

The NewsGuild is the largest union of journalists and media workers in North America, representing about 27,000 workers in media, the public sector, at nonprofits and other labor unions. The Guild represents hundreds of media workers across Gannett at about 50 publications. The Guild is one of the fastest growing unions on the continent and is a sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents workers in telecommunications and information technology, the airline industry, health care, public service and education, manufacturing and other fields.

Newsletter: Join Gannett journalists for a virtual rally tomorrow!

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Tomorrow night Gannett journalists are speaking out on their fight to save local news. We’re hosting the rally and it’ll include musician Billy Bragg, Florida Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, New York State Senator James Skoufis and unionized Gannett journalists from across the company.

The webinar will start at 7 p.m. ET sharp. Join it here on Zoom.

The rally is open to all. Come hear how hundreds of Gannett employees across the country are fighting back against Gannett’s layoffs, outsourcing, shrinking local news coverage and low pay that prevents many from living in the communities they cover. 

Continue reading “Newsletter: Join Gannett journalists for a virtual rally tomorrow!”