Journalists at four Washington state papers: We’re unionizing

Journalists at four Washington state newspapers owned by the McClatchy Company announced Wednesday they are unionizing. More than 90 percent of reporters, visual journalists and digital staff have signed cards indicating they want representation as part of the Pacific Northwest Local of The NewsGuild-CWA, organizers said. The publications are The News Tribune, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald and the Tri-City Herald.

The journalists have asked management to grant voluntary recognition of their union, citing overwhelming support among the staff as well as McClatchy’s recent decisions to voluntarily recognize NewsGuild units at the Hilton Head Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Together, employees of the four outlets will form the Washington State NewsGuild bargaining unit.

“I grew up in Pierce County, and watching the paper my family subscribed to as a kid suffer has been incredibly painful to watch,” said Matt Driscoll, a reporter and columnist at The News Tribune in Tacoma. “Like an overwhelming majority of my colleagues, I’m supporting unionization because I believe it will give us a chance to build the kind of newspaper this community deserves. It will help us diversify the newsroom and become a paper that reflects our community.”

The four paper have suffered losses that have been felt by the staff and by the communities the papers cover, organizers said. “Across all four papers, we are now down to fewer than 40 union-eligible newsroom staff over the entirety of Washington state. Over the past decade, the number of people working at our newsrooms has precipitously declined even as the number of people in the communities we serve has increased and the issues needing coverage have multiplied,” they wrote.

Denver Pratt, a courts and criminal justice reporter at The Bellingham Herald, said, “Our communities deserve to have local papers that not only provide community-focused, watchdog journalism, but have a company that invests in the journalists telling those stories. We deserve fair working conditions and appropriate pay. This effort is for the survival of our papers. Each of us care about our jobs and respective communities, it’s time for McClatchy to care about us.”

Follow the group on Twitter @WaNewsGuild or visit their website, www.WashingtonStateNewsGuild.org.