Political writer Bianca Padró Ocasio speaking at December’s press conference. (Courtesy Emily Michot, Miami Herald photographer, NewsGuild-CWA Local 3108.)

Journalists of Florida ‘Heralds’ vote unanimously to ratify first contracts

Journalists at the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and Bradenton Herald voted unanimously to ratify their first contracts with McClatchy in balloting that was tallied on Wednesday. Members of One Herald Guild, which represents workers at the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, voted 71-0; the Bradenton Herald Guild vote was 5-0. Turnout in Miami was 93% of Guild members and in Bradenton it was 100%.

Workers on the united bargaining team said they are confident the contracts “will bring new job protections and financial benefits to every member of the newsroom.”

The two-year agreements will strengthen the company’s commitment to local journalism by strengthening its strongest asset: its employees, they said. “It will make the Heralds a more desirable place to work to retain and attract first-rate talent. And it will help to alleviate decades of unfair labor practices that have continued for too long.”

The voting capped 984 days of bargaining and mobilizing by workers at the unified newsroom of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald and workers at the Bradenton Herald, who began negotiating in June of 2020. The tentative agreements were announced Aug. 12.

“The unions negotiated better provisions on layoffs up until the end,” reaching a final settlement on the evening of Aug. 11, said Joey Flechas, co-chair of One Herald Guild. The new language clarifies that only professional qualifications should have any bearing in layoff decisions. 

Throughout the bargaining, union members engaged in escalating actions. They participated in a one-day work stoppage on April 1 to demand a fair contract and to insist that McClatchy follow labor laws. In December 2021 they organized a press conference and rally, where they accused the company of stalling on contract talks, perpetuating pay disparities, and using a pregnant staffer as a bargaining chip in negotiations over parental leave. They also launched other mobilizations, including a letter-writing campaign and work-to-rule campaigns.

Among the top features and new rights in the contracts are:

Wages: Two-years of increases and retroactive pay

  • Minimum salary of $52,000 for Miami; $45,000 for Bradenton
  • 5% wage increase across the board in Miami; 3% wage increase in Bradenton. Bradenton workers will share in a new $10,000 “equity pool” to correct salary inequities going forward and will receive a $1,000 ratification bonus.
  • One-time retroactive payment equal to 5% of salary or salary minimum in Miami to March 1, 2021, or subsequent hire date, and 3% in Bradenton.
  • 2% wage increase in August 2023
  • Interns will be paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour
  • $25 weekly differential pay for language certification

Layoffs: More certainty, guaranteed severance and notice

  • No dismissals except for discipline and reduction of force. 
  • Two weeks advance notice with notice in writing and shall include reasons for the layoff 
  • Guild may offer alternatives to layoff (but the publisher’s reason for the layoff may not be subject to grievance and arbitration)
  • Laid off employees will be placed on a rehire list
  • All employees will receive a minimum of four weeks of severance pay based on their current rate of pay with a maximum 26 weeks. Part-time employees will receive up to 13 weeks 
  • COBRA will be paid for 3 months if the employee pays the portion equivalent to the employee’s premium at time of termination
  • The least senior employee shall be laid off if all other qualifications are equal: attendance record, training and other journalism qualifications of employees

Health Care

  • The employer will maintain the current Aetna Medical Plan through Aug. 31, 2022. On Sept. 1, 2022, members of One Herald Guild and Bradenton Herald NewsGuild will switch to a plan administered by the United Furniture Workers Insurance Fund, which uses the Blue Cross Blue Shield network. 
  • Cost certainty: We know what next year’s rate will be. 
  • Employee contributions to PPO will increase 5% in 2023. For comparison, McClatchy proposed to raise rates by 6.1% in 2021; union members negotiated the increase down to 5.1%.
  • Lower annual out-of-pocket-maximum amounts
  • Larger percentage covered for inpatient/outpatient services after deductible
  • Abortion coverage 
  • Prescription copayments count toward out-of-pocket total. Once you reach your out-of-pocket maximum, everything is paid at 100% 

Holidays, Vacations, Leave

  • For the first time: Paid parental leave will be guaranteed, including 6-8 weeks of maternity leave and 10 weeks parental leave, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021
  • Diversity Day, a floating holiday
  • Juneteenth holiday
  • Employees may roll over up to 10 days of unused vacation per year
  • Employee may be advanced one week of vacation each year
  • 4 years = 15 days annual vacation
  • 5 years = 20 days annual vacation
  • Employees hired before Jan. 1, 2010, and who have reached 20 years of service as of Sept. 1, 2022, will continue to be eligible for a fifth week of vacation.

Job Protections

  • For the first time, all employees will have the right to file grievances and seek arbitration to enforce the provisions of the contract.
  • Guild representatives must be notified of any changes in employees’ job status and compensation
  • Guild reps must be notified of job vacancies, employees’ temporary leave and replacements
  • Guild reps must be given 90 days advance notice of changes to the retirement plan
  • Guild reps must be notified of programs for new hires and must be provided a list of trainers


  • Discipline may only be issued for just cause, with employees entitled to  have a Guild representative present, on the employer’s time. 
  • Procedure includes oral warning, written warning and final warning before discharge
  • Employee must receive advance notice and has a right to reply

In an email to newsroom employees, members of the Bargaining Committee wrote, “Let’s stop a moment and consider where we’ve been: Our company declared bankruptcy [in February 2020] and transitioned to new ownership with new leadership. The pandemic took its toll, on our revenues, your physical newsroom, and the cohesion that comes with it. 

“We kept working through it all, covering political turmoil, and social unrest, chronicling heartbreak and hardship and, yes, catastrophe. Still, we never stopped producing – as the stream of awards, and a Pulitzer Prize has shown!! 

“We also remained strong. When our employer continued to delay negotiations, treating us unequally, we became the first Guild to conduct a one-day strike outside of NYC in 20 years! This was a powerful show of unity and strength that proved we were serious about a fair contract. The collective power of that message led to a robust wage agreement. And now, a final contract agreement.”

Political writer Bianca Padró Ocasio speaking at December’s press conference. (Courtesy Emily Michot, Miami Herald photographer, NewsGuild-CWA Local 3108.)