Journalists of Fort Worth Star-Telegram announce union drive

Oct. 14, 2020 – Journalists of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram announced Wednesday that they are forming a union, becoming the latest in a wave of organizing campaigns across the industry.

The Star-Telegram is the second major newsroom to announce plans to unionize in Texas, following the Dallas Morning News, where votes on unionizing will be counted Friday.

“Star-Telegram journalists are dedicated to Fort Worth and deserve a voice in the decisions that impact our newsroom,” said Luke Ranker, the newspaper’s government reporter of two years. “The NewsGuild will help us advocate for ourselves and our community, and ensure a strong legacy into the future.”

Claiming support from an overwhelming majority of the staff, organizers asked the McClatchy Company, the Star-Telegram’s parent company, to voluntarily recognize the Fort Worth NewsGuild as a unit of The NewsGuild-CWA.

Recognizing the union voluntarily would allow contract negotiations between McClatchy and newsroom staff to begin quickly. Last month, McClatchy granted immediate recognition to the Packet/Gazette Guild, which represents journalists at the Hilton Head Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette newspapers. Other unionized McClatchy publications include the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, the Bradenton Herald, the Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee and Fresno Bee and the Idaho Statesman.

The announcement of the union drive at the Star-Telegram follows the finalization of McClatchy’s sale to Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey- based hedge fund. The sale came six months after McClatchy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following more than a decade of losses and layoffs.

“The Star-Telegram is entering new territory, as we are now owned by a hedge fund instead of a family who had a strong foundation in journalism,” said Elizabeth Campbell, the paper’s suburban reporter who has been with the paper for more than 30 years. “We want to protect the legacy the Star-Telegram has built over its many years.”

“Our union gives us the opportunity to better provide the coverage Fort Worth deserves and to recruit new, diverse talent to ensure its future stability,” said Mark Dent, an investigative reporter who joined the paper in 2020.

“The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been telling stories for all of North Texas for 111 years. We have been here to explain new policies from City Hall, highlight the best new barbecue joints, investigate irresponsible civic behavior and share the joys of great athletic achievements by TCU, the Rangers and the Cowboys” staffers wrote in a Mission Statement.

“It is in this spirit that we are forming a union. No matter the owner, our union will give us a local voice. It ensures that the Star-Telegram will represent Fort Worth.”

Organizers intend to work with McClatchy to strengthen their work, protect employees and fight for a diverse newsroom that better reflects its community.

“Latinos make up one-third of Fort Worth residents, but right now we only have three reporters who speak Spanish,” said Kristian Hernandez, an investigative reporter who joined the paper in 2020. “I want to make sure we have a paper that understands our community and speaks their language.”

The union will advocate for regular pay raises, adequate protections against layoffs, parental leave and other benefits to ensure the Star-Telegram can thrive. “Most of all, a union will give us a better opportunity to tell the stories that matter to all of Fort Worth’s diverse communities. And that is what we care about the most,” organizers said.

Visit Fort Worth NewsGuild’s website or follow them on Twitter @FortWorthGuild.