Jan. 21, 2020 – The staffs of the Miami New Times and Phoenix New Times took a major step Tuesday toward forming unions to preserve their award-winning journalism and their contributions to their communities.
A majority of reporters, editors, and designers from the sister alt-weekly publications signed cards indicating their desire to be represented by the Voice Media Guild, a unit of The NewsGuild-CWA.
They presented their requests for voluntary recognition to local management after months of organizing.
“We do this work because we love it and because we know that our independent voices are vital to Miami and Phoenix,” their mission statement says. “But we often find that we do this work in spite of low pay and substandard benefits, constant pressure to bring in clicks, inconsistent mandates from management, steady turnover, and insecurity about the future.”
Both publications are owned by Voice Media Group, a Denver-based corporation that was founded in 2012 when executives of Village Voice Media, the parent company of 13 alt-weeklies, bought the company. After acquiring the properties, Voice Media Group began selling them off, Vice reported, and now they own just six.
In recent years, Voice Media Group journalists have experienced sudden layoffs, extensive turnover, and other obstacles to producing the groundbreaking news and culture coverage they are known for.
They believe that a union is the best path forward for the publications, the people who work for them, and the cities they serve.
“For years, many of us have sat by as management has laid off friends and colleagues who have produced crucial work,” said Jerry Iannelli, a Miami New Times staff writer and member of the Organizing Committee. “We’ve been routinely forced to do extra work without any say in the matter — and often without extra pay. As alt-weekly writers, we confront the world’s problems loudly and with character. And it’s time we did the same for our own workplaces.”
Both publications carry on the tradition of alt-weeklies, whose independent voices have exposed corruption and injustice, nurtured the arts and music scenes, and put groundbreaking culinary talent on the map. Unfortunately, these voices are in danger. In the past few years, alt-weeklies across the nation have been gutted or closed altogether. Many of America’s largest cities now operate without the entertaining voices, diverse points of view, and critical checks on power that alt-weeklies have provided for decades.
“All of us care deeply about our work and our mission of speaking truth to power. Too often, our work conditions undermine the talents of our writers and editors instead of nurturing them,” said Elizabeth Whitman, a staff writer at Phoenix New Times and a member of the Organizing Committee. “We are tired of being ignored or dismissed when we ask for fair compensation and treatment or offer suggestions in good faith to ensure that we can continue writing powerful and important stories.”
By unionizing, the journalists of Miami New Times and Phoenix New Times hope to gain better and more equitable pay and benefits, layoff protections, and a stronger voice in their own newsrooms.
They hope that management will voluntarily recognize their union so that both parties can start negotiating. As their mission statement says, “We’re not trying to go to battle; we do this in the spirit of cooperation.”
Jerry Iannelli (Miami): (856) 904-1338
Elizabeth Whitman (Phoenix): (203) 803-9821
Photo at top: Journalists of Miami New Times from left: Jaimee Cobb, Olivia McAuley, Nadine DeMarco, Zach Schlein, Jerry Ianelli, Manuel Madrid and Alexi Cardona.