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.

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U.S. Capitol

America’s journalists want the JCPA to support journalism jobs, not hedge funds

Leaders of The NewsGuild-CWA, the largest union of journalists and media workers in the U.S., reiterated their concern over the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) and called on Congress to make sure labor protections and nonprofit newsrooms were part of any deal. The Guild also denounced Meta’s threat Monday to withdraw our members’ journalism from Facebook as a strong-arm tactic to avoid regulation.

The Guild represents about 17,000 media workers at more than 220 media organizations, from the New York Times, Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer to the Idaho Statesman, Arizona Republic and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Much of the news industry has been consolidated in the past several years under chains controlled by hedge funds like Alden Global Capital (MediaNews Group/Digital First Media and recently Tribune Publishing), Fortress Investment Group (Gannett), and Chatham Asset Management (McClatchy). The Guild also represents journalists at not-for-profit controlled newsrooms such as the Center for Public Integrity, VT Digger and the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

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Over 1k New York Times newsroom workers pledge to walk out if contract deal is not reached

NEW YORK, NY — On Friday morning, unionized workers at The New York Times sent a pledge to company executives with over one thousand signatories that read, “We will walk out and stop work for 24 hours, on Thursday, Dec. 8, if we do not have a deal for a complete and equitable contract by then.”

Represented by The NewsGuild of New York, workers are demanding that the company start bargaining in good faith and are to do whatever it takes to finish this contract by the December 8th deadline. The Times Guild’s last contract expired in March 2021.

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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.

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Fort Worth NewsGuild members strike over unfair labor practices by Star-Telegram owner McClatchy

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth NewsGuild is on strike, effective immediately. 

Journalists at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram are the first in Texas and the first at a newspaper owned by McClatchy to strike. Members of the Guild decided to strike with an overwhelming majority of support — 91% of signed members — because of the company’s continued refusal to bargain in good faith. 

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Journalists at Louisville’s paper of record celebrate landslide union victory

Journalists at The Courier Journal, Kentucky’s highest-circulation newspaper, today secured a confident victory in their long-awaited union election. Eligible staff voted to certify the new Courier Journal Guild by a margin of 22 to 4. The Courier Journal Guild is part of the Indianapolis NewsGuild, TNG-CWA Local 34070.

Billy Kobin, Metro Government and Breaking News reporter, was one of many staffers to share his excitement after the election results were announced. “The outcome of the vote was never really in doubt, as I had confidence in our support and collective strength,” said Kobin. “But seeing the vote tally happen live was a welcome sight nonetheless. It’s time to keep the momentum going.”

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Pittsburgh newspaper workers are making history

Online “strike paper” is part of an esteemed tradition

It’s rare for private-sector union members to go on strike these days. But it’s even rarer for journalists to walk off the job.

I remember occasionally bringing up the idea of a strike with fellow NewsGuild members when I was a reporter at The Monterey Herald from 2004 to 2014, but it always seemed like no one had the will or ability to make it happen. We had rent payments, mortgages, medical expenses, kids in college and so many other reasons that made the few dollars we’d receive in strike pay seem untenable.

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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.”

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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.

Striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers joining Starbucks workers on strike on Oct. 20, 2022.

NewsGuild-CWA strongly condemns judge and Starbucks for seeking messages between reporters and workers

Last month a federal judge ruled that Starbucks Workers United, a union supporting the organizing of thousands of Starbucks workers across the U.S., must turn over private messages between workers and journalists covering the massive organizing wave at the coffee chain. This ruling has serious implications for media coverage of unionization efforts and could chill workers from talking to journalists. It also inhibits the ability of the public’s long-standing right to know about labor disputes and potential labor violations.

Given the high profile of the Starbucks union fight, dozens of workers could have their conversations with journalists exposed. It is clear that the company’s intent is to chill free speech and intimidate workers from exercising their right to discuss their working conditions and organize. Starbucks Workers United plans to challenge the decision.

“Starbucks is out of line and actively violating state law, the First Amendment and the National Labor Relations Act,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss. “Communications among workers and journalists have long been protected by law in our democracy.”

“Workers have a federally-protected right to speak publicly about their wages, benefits and working conditions, including to the press. It is a fundamental American value,” Schleuss said.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from spying or surveilling employees’ union activities. Thirty-nine states, including New York, have shield laws protecting members of the media from subpoenas for their sources. 

These union-busting tactics must end, and journalists’ communications with sources must be protected. Starbucks has already committed over 200 violations of the National Labor Relations Act. Starbucks Workers United members in Buffalo plans to challenge Judge Sinatra’s ruling, and we look forward to this dangerous decision being rescinded. 

“The organizing campaign at Starbucks has inspired not just other Starbucks workers, but workers at Apple and other retail stores. Starbucks’ action shows that corporations are desperate to stop this wave of organizing by stopping the spread of information. We have seen that companies have no hesitation about violating the National Labor Relations Act. Now Starbucks is taking it to a new level by violating our Constitutionally protected freedoms,” said Communications Workers of America Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, a former journalist who was fired after organizing her newsroom.

In April Starbucks blocked Schleuss on Twitter after he tweeted “Today is a Good Day to start a union!” quoting a corporate tweet.