Group of unions show strong support for California Journalism Preservation Act

Several unions including The NewsGuild-CWA, SAG-AFTRA, NABET-CWA, the National Writers Union and local unions signed onto a letter enthusiastically supporting the California Journalism Preservation Act, Assembly Bill 886.

The legislation would unlock millions of dollars a year to support journalism jobs in the largest state in the U.S. and follows other journalism jobs bills that The NewsGuild-CWA helped pass in New York and Illinois.

Re: AB 886 (Wicks) California Journalism Preservation Act – Support

Dear Chair Umberg and Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

We represent thousands of journalists and communications workers across California who provide the local news upon which millions of Californians rely. Members of our unions are journalists, technicians and freelancers who work for commercial and nonprofit news outlets large and small, across print, broadcast and digital media including Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, CalMatters, Telemundo (KVEA), LAist (KPCC), Sacramento Bee, KABC, Orange County Register, KCRW, Univision (KMEX and KDTV), Fresno Bee, KPBS, CapRadio, KGO, Los Angeles Daily News, KMBC, East Bay Times, KTTV, Berkeleyside, The Oaklandside, KOVR, KMAX-TV, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, KSBY, Press-Enterprise, Mercury News, Desert Sun, Long Beach Post and more.

We write in support of Assembly Bill 886, the California Journalism Preservation Act, which will protect journalism jobs by leveling the playing field between news outlets and massive tech platforms, especially as Big Tech explores using artificial intelligence technology to extract additional value from journalists’ work without compensation.

Like all workers, journalists’ labor produces value. We demand our fair share of it through collective bargaining with our employers, as protected by the National Labor Relations Act. But if that value gets unfairly captured by third-party tech platforms instead of the news outlets that employ us, we can’t bargain for pay that reflects our actual economic productivity.

Meanwhile, journalism jobs keep disappearing in print, broadcast and digital news outlets alike. Over the past year, both for-profit and nonprofit California news outlets including the Los Angeles Times, LAist 89.3 FM (formerly KPCC), KCRW, KQED, CapRadio and Long Beach Post have announced major staff reductions. Digital news startup dot.LA laid off its entire editorial team, while independent digital news site L.A. Taco has had to furlough staff and hold an emergency fundraising drive to stay alive.

The CJPA would require massive tech platforms that control the digital advertising market to pay a usage fee to qualifying news outlets in exchange for profiting from our journalism, in an amount to be determined through negotiation or third-party arbitration. New amendments will set distribution to newsrooms based on how many news journalists they employ who primarily cover California, ensuring that funds to local publishers that actually invest in journalism.

While versions of this type of platform-publisher legislation have been introduced around the world, the CJPA goes the farthest in ensuring funds support journalists and our work serving communities across California.

Publishers with more than five employees must spend at least 70% of fees generated by CJPA on payroll for journalists and essential support staff. Outlets that wish to receive these funds must disclose to their employees how they plan to comply with the statute’s payroll requirements and publish an annual transparency report disclosing how the funds were actually spent.

These first-in-class labor protections are especially supported by the undersigned unions that represent journalists at the California newsrooms owned by hedge funds and private equity that provide the news for many Californians. We are strong believers in transparency and accountability, and this bill will give journalists, their unions, policymakers and the public the tools we need to ensure that funds go to newsrooms before boardrooms.

For these reasons, we respectfully encourage you to vote yes on the California Journalism Preservation Act.

California Labor Federation – Sara Flocks, Legislative and Strategic Campaigns Director
Communications Workers of America, District 9 – Frank Arce, Vice President
Media Guild of the West, The NewsGuild-CWA Local 39213 – Matt Pearce, President
NABET-CWA Local 51 – Carrie Biggs-Adams, President
NABET-CWA Local 53 – Joe Ayala, President
NABET-CWA Region 5 – Kevin Gallo, Vice President
National Writers Union – Larry Goldbetter, President
Pacific Media Workers Guild, The NewsGuild-CWA Local 39521 – Annie Sciacca, President
SAG-AFTRA – Fran Drescher, President
The NewsGuild-CWA – Jon Schleuss, President

Download a PDF of the letter