‘Employers pay a price for retaliation’

NLRB Files Complaint Against Sarasota Herald-Tribune

(June 7, 2017) There are consequences for companies – like the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – that retaliate against employees who vote to form a union.

That’s the significance of the decision by Region 12 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to file a formal complaint against the Florida paper, says Tim Schick, administrative director of the NewsGuild-CWA.

The complaint alleges that representatives of the Herald-Tribune illegally:

  • “Threatened to ‘blackball’ employees from the industry” and “end their careers in print journalism” if they engaged in activities on behalf of the union;
  • Threatened to demote employees if they supported the union;
  • Created an impression among employees that their union activities were under surveillance;
  • Threatened employees with unspecified reprisals if they participated in activities on behalf of the union, and
  • Reassigned two leaders of the union organizing effort to less-desirable positions.

Elizabeth Johnson, a union supporter who was removed from the paper’s I-Team investigative unit and reassigned to less-desirable general assignment reporting, said she was glad management was being held accountable for their actions.

“For me it goes back to why we formed the union. We just wanted to have a voice at the table when decisions affecting us were being made,” she said. (Johnson left the paper for another job prior to the issuance of the complaint.)

“I hope the Herald-Tribune management learns from this experience, so that other reporters and other newsroom staff don’t have to endure the work environment that I and some of the others experienced.”

Unfortunately, the Herald-Tribune’s actions are not unusual. “Employers are willing to engage in illegal activity if they think it will defeat the union,” Schick said. “But workers have a recourse and the opportunity for remedies if they hang tough and stand up for their rights.”

Journalists, copy editors, designers, photographers and web producers at the Herald-Tribune voted to join the NewsGuild-CWA in September 2016, less than a month after employees of the nearby Lakeland Ledger voted to join the union. There have been no newsroom-wide pay increases at the Herald-Tribune in approximately 10 years.

Both publications were bought by GateHouse Media in 2015, which owns 16 publications and has instituted a strategy of aggressive acquisition of publications, followed by aggressive cost-cutting.

“The journalists at the Herald-Tribune are fighting for the right to practice their profession with the dignity of decent pay and benefits – and without the threat of retaliation,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer. “The union will always support them in that fight.”

A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Aug. 21.