Houston Landing employees form union after editor, star reporter fired

HOUSTON — An overwhelming majority of eligible employees at the nonprofit publication Houston Landing have formed a union to advocate for stronger job protections and a seat at the table in organization-wide decisions.

For the last eight months, the Landing’s journalists and staff have worked together to publish numerous community-centered stories that have deepened Houstonians’ understanding of their community. They are proud to have met and even exceeded company targets for impact, page views and engagement time, among others, just months after launch.

However, management’s shock decision to terminate the Landing’s founding editor-in-chief and sole investigative reporter in January as part of an ill-defined and sudden “company reset” exposed the few protections Landing employees actually have. Organizers notified management of their intent to unionize Monday, six weeks to the day of the firings.

Employees are petitioning Houston Landing’s CEO and board of directors to voluntarily recognize their union. This comes after 75% of eligible staffers signed union authorization cards, signaling their desire for representation by the Houston Landing News Guild.

Part of the Media Guild of the West and The NewsGuild-CWA, the Houston Landing News Guild will represent 21 eligible staff members, including reporters, photographers and designers, among others.

In a mission statement distributed Monday, the union promised to advocate for fair working conditions, including protections against disciplinary action without just cause and due process:

“We will fight to maintain a workplace culture that reflects our core values of transparency, inclusivity and accountability. We will champion editorial representation at the highest levels of company leadership and decision-making. Finally, we will uphold the mission of the Landing: to advance democracy through journalism and improve the lives of all Houstonians one story at a time.”

Emily Datsko, a web designer at the Landing, supports forming a union because she believes workers “have a right to protect themselves in an industry full of constant uncertainty and change.”

“As a designer in this newsroom, I rely on my coworkers’ compelling work to drive everything I create,” Datsko said. “I believe in the impactful work we’ve done and will continue to do at the Landing, and that work can only be completed successfully if we, as workers, are unified and protected together.”

Maggie Gordon, former columnist and now senior storyteller at the Landing, said the publication’s mission is to improve the lives of all Houstonians.

“In order to live this mission, it’s important that we practice what we preach. This means the Landing must build a safe and equitable newsroom that treats its employees with respect, and empowers them to do their best work for our city and our readers,” she said.

Clare Amari, a public safety reporter at the Landing, also emphasized that the union will play a key role in fulfilling the Landing’s mission.

“Above all, I came to Houston Landing to produce impactful journalism that serves the community,” Amari said. “The Houston Landing News Guild will help safeguard the cultural and editorial standards that have supported that mission so far. I am optimistic that this talented team will continue to do good work and look forward to working with management to make the Landing the best possible version of itself.”

The Houston Landing launched in June 2023 as a nonpartisan nonprofit news organization devoted to public service and accountability journalism. Its mission is to strengthen democracy and improve the lives of all Houstonians one story at a time.