NewsGuild calls on news organizations to commit to fair union elections

For Immediate Release
March 9, 2020

Contact:
Sally Davidow at 202-434-1162

The NewsGuild, a sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), is calling on the country’s major corporate newspaper chains to commit to a set of ground rules that will ensure free and fair union elections for their employees.

Journalists at 10 news publications around the country have recently announced union drives. Their newspapers are owned by national chains, including Gannett, McClatchy, and Tribune Publishing, as well as smaller ownership chains such as the alt-weekly owner Voice Media Group.

Employees at each publication requested voluntary recognition of their union from their employers, a process by which management can respect the fact that a majority of its employees have signed cards indicating their desire for a union, recognize their union, and begin negotiations over wages and working conditions.

In each of the NewsGuild-CWA campaigns, the employer refused to offer voluntary recognition, forcing a four-week waiting period for an election.

During these waiting periods, employers typically retain high-priced consultants to conduct campaigns of intimidation, disinformation, and emotional manipulation. The purpose of these anti-union campaigns is to convince employees to vote against unionization and thereby prevent them from securing collective bargaining rights. 

A December 2019 report by the Economic Policy Institute found that American employers spend an estimated $340 million annually on “union avoidance” firms to attempt to crush union elections. Consultants often report being paid $350 per hour or more, with some earning as much as $2,500 per day.

“Gannett says that we should go to an election to ensure that unionizing is done in a democratic manner. We agree, and expect them to respect the entire democratic process by honoring these very reasonable guidelines that we’ve proposed,” said Sarah Gamard, a politics reporter for Delaware Online and USATODAY Network. “These guidelines will reduce distractions and help maintain a mutual level of respect in our newsroom.“

Alex Driehaus, a photojournalist for the Naples Daily News, said, “Despite Gannett’s refusal to recognize the members of the Southwest Florida News Guild as one bargaining unit, we intend to remain united in achieving our mutual goals through our election on March 25 and beyond. We hope that our managers will commit to approaching this election in the same fair and unbiased manner that informs our reporting every day. We want our members to be able to make an informed decision without fear of retribution, and we expect our management to maintain an environment where that is possible.”

Annie Martin, an education reporter for the Tribune Publishing-owned Orlando Sentinel, said, “While Sentinel Guild members are disappointed we did not receive voluntary recognition from Tribune Publishing, we are looking forward to a fair election on March 25. We’re confident our managers share this goal and we expect them to follow these straightforward rules to ensure every eligible member of our newsroom is able to vote freely and without fear of retaliation.” 

Below are the ground rules the NewsGuild-CWA has proposed.

Ground Rules for a Free and Fair Election

  • Meeting equity: For every meeting where management discusses the union, the Organizing Committee will get equivalent time and space to hold our own meeting
  • Respect our voice: Don’t tell employees what’s going to be in our contract. We will decide what we prioritize in bargaining.
  • No emails about the union will be sent via company email.
  • No interrogation: Management will not ask employees about their involvement in the union.
  • Respect the law: No legal delays, no frivolous litigation, and no labor law violations

The groups organizing with the NewsGuild that are calling on their employer to sign onto the ground rules are:

  • Delaware Online and The News Journal – Delaware NewsGuild, a unit of The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, Local 38010
  • Fort Myers News-Press and Naples Daily News – Southwest Florida NewsGuild, a unit of CWA Local 3108
  • Idaho Statesman – Idaho News Guild, a unit of Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, Local 37082
  • Miami New Times – Voice Media Guild, a unit of CWA Local 3108
  • Orlando Sentinel – Sentinel Guild, a unit of CWA Local 3108
  • Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News – Palm Beach News Guild, a unit of CWA Local 3108
  • Phoenix New Times – Voice Media Guild, a unit of Media Guild of the West, local 39213

Photo: Members of the Southwest Florida News Guild show the letter they submitted to Gannett.

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