Desert Sun journalists launch ULP strike to demand a fair contract

Unionized journalists at The Desert Sun, the Coachella Valley’s daily newspaper, launched an open-ended ULP strike today after three years of bargaining with Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain. The Desert Sun NewsGuild is part of The NewsGuild-CWA, which represents more than 50 Gannett bargaining units, covering more than 1,000 employees.

Guild members will be holding a rally Monday to discuss why they’re striking and why Gannett must invest more in local journalism in the Coachella Valley. 

WHAT: Rally to support Desert Sun journalists

WHEN: Monday, March 4, 2024 – 12:00 pm PT

WHERE: Corner of Tahquitz Canyon Drive and Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs (near the “PS ❤️U” sign)

Journalists at The Desert Sun have been bargaining for an initial contract since unionizing three years ago, and their vote comes after the company’s refusal to offer consistent raises that reflect the skyrocketing cost of living in the valley, as well as its unwillingness to offer any protections against exorbitant health care cost hikes. Gannett has committed multiple unfair labor practice violations against members of the union, who have launched a strike fund to support their efforts.

“I’m sick and tired of watching Gannett executives get rich while my hard-working colleagues, including several who have been here for multiple decades, give their all producing great journalism for this community, only to have to suffer stagnating wages that have made it harder and harder for them to pay their bills and just get by,” said Paul Albani-Burgio, a growth and development reporter for The Desert Sun and unit steward of The Desert Sun NewsGuild

The strike vote comes after several member-led actions, including multiple lunch-outs in solidarity with other unionized Gannett newsrooms, a one-day walkout in November 2022 and another in February 2023, and a five-day walkout in June 2023. The local guild has also held rallies across the valley to tell community members about its efforts. 

“We’ve fought for three years to make it clear to Gannett that they need to invest in the workers that get up everyday and deliver quality journalism for our communities, but they don’t seem to be listening,” said Christopher Damien, a criminal justice reporter for The Desert Sun and unit chair of The Desert Sun NewsGuild. “Consistent raises for young journalists so they can afford to live and work in the communities they cover are not only critical for our first contract, they’re critical for the future of this industry.”

The nation’s largest newspaper chain, Gannett has slashed pay, benefits, and jobs for local reporters since its merger with GateHouse in 2019. In 2022, Gannett cut nearly 20% of its journalism jobs, instituted unpaid furloughs and a hiring slowdown and suspended company contributions to employee 401(k) plans. 

Gannett has also been stalling on bargaining at various negotiating tables across the unionized newsrooms, and not bargaining in good faith around demands for living wages and the resources journalists need to cover their communities.