March 4, 2020 – The journalists of the Idaho Statesman announced plans to form a unit of the NewsGuild-CWA on March 2, becoming the first employees of a McClatchy-owned publication to seek union rights since the company filed for bankruptcy.
All of the Statesman’s 16 eligible newsroom employees signed a mission statement signaling support for the Idaho News Guild. They are part of surge in union organizing among journalists and were the second group that day to announce a such plans.
Organizers asked McClatchy to voluntarily recognize the union and said if McClatchy refuses, they would request a National Labor Relations Board-supervised vote. Management responded the following day, saying it was obligated to consult with key stakeholders, the court and the ultimate new owner, Chatham Asset Management.
The NewsGuild-CWA already represents approximately 150 McClatchy employees at six publications, including the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee and the Lexington Herald-Leader. Last week the national union became one of seven members appointed to the company’s bankruptcy creditors committee.
In forming the union, the Statesman’s journalists are seeking to preserve Idaho news, ensure their ability to tell the community’s stories and give staff input in decisions.
In recent years, corporate decisions have left the Statesman’s journalists with more responsibilities and fewer resources, they said. “Rampant turnover, pay disparities and rising healthcare costs have destabilized the newsroom,” organizers wrote in a press statement.
The staff has faced layoffs and unpaid furloughs. Newsroom staff is about one-third the size it was in 2011 — and about half the size it was just three years ago.
“No one can predict the future,” said Michael Lycklama, a sports writer who has worked at the Statesman since 2014. “But one thing is certain. Without a strong union representing our newsroom, the Idaho Statesman will be weaker and less able to serve our community the news it deserves.”
Organizers plans to advocate for a more stable newsroom, pay equity, improved healthcare benefits and compensation that rewards experience.
“The journalists here at the Idaho Statesman are proud of our work, but we’ve long been demoralized by a series of unpaid furloughs, layoffs, stagnant pay and worsening benefits,” said reporter John Sowell, who has worked at the Statesman since 2013. “Getting summoned to the editor’s office or to an unscheduled staff meeting makes me wonder whether I’m getting laid off.”
Reporter Ruth Brown, who has been at the Statesman for three years, said, “Our newsroom works every day to deliver news that is vital to our community, and I’m proud to be a part of it.” Brown said. “Forming a union is the best way to strengthen our newsroom by giving our journalists a voice.”