Newsletter: Historic First Contract Wins at Tribune

Our North American union siblings in Canada are celebrating a first contract CFRA, a news and talk radio station serving Ottawa! Staff voted overwhelmingly to ratify a deal that includes a new wage scale, wage increases, and better working conditions.

“It feels like we conquered Everest in record time,” said Callum Fraser, CFRA unit leader at the Ottawa Newspaper Guild.

Congratulations to them!

After five long years of negotiations between Alden Global Capital and a joint bargaining committee, NewsGuild-CWA members at eight Tribune publications voted overwhelmingly to ratify a historic first contract. The company, which was acquired by hedge fund Alden Global Capital halfway through this, slowed down bargaining for years.

Newsrooms covered by the contract include: Orlando Sentinel, Tidewater (The Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press, The Virginia Gazette, and Tidewater Review), Morning Call, Suburban Chicago Tribune (The Beacon-News, The Courier-News, The Naperville Sun, and The Daily Southtown), Design and Production Studios, Hartford Courant, and Tribune Content Agency.

The joint bargaining committee, with involvement from 62 NewsGuild members over five years, secured a two-year contract that guarantees raises, protects the 401k match, increases job security, and much more. This deal comes four months after Tribune journalists participated in a 24 hour strike.

“Helping organize our union in 2018 gave me agency I have never felt in my career,” says Wendy Fox Weber, unit chair and member bargainer, Suburban Chicago Tribune Guild. “Six years later, we finally have a contract with Alden Global Capital. The company fought us every step of the way, and everything in that contract is thanks to the work of a dedicated group of member bargainers. I am honored to have helped bring it to ratification.”

I’m so proud of these journalists for sticking with the joint table and fighting for a fair contract. It was a long time coming, many of these newsrooms unionized right after we did at the L.A. Times, when we were still part of “tronc”.

We’ve opened up applications for tuition assistance to Cornell University’s School of Labor Relations labor training programs. Members, leaders, and staff can get support attending either in-person or online courses: costing out a contract, basic negotiation skills, steward training and effective communication. The online courses run from September 9 through December 22 and the in-person courses are in Buffalo, NY running from October 8-11. Training may be provided directly to individuals or, in some cases, may be set up as group training for locals or groups of locals.

The scholarship was created by the family of Bruce Nelson, a Guild staff representative for three decades. Bruce trained hundreds of members and worked with folks all across the United States.

Deadlines to apply start August 9 and applications are now open! Find more information here.

Shortly after the news broke last week that Vox Media and The Atlantic inked deals with OpenAI, the unionized members of New York Magazine and The Atlantic Editorial and Business and Technology units, released statements criticizing their employers for the lack of transparency surrounding the agreement and what it entails.

“We know from our colleagues, and from the reaction to this agreement, that AI continues to be a critical concern for our members, and our industry,” unionized New York Magazine staff wrote in a statement. “We are frustrated that Vox Media made this deal while actively avoiding any engagement with our proposals on AI at the bargaining table.”

“The people who continue to maintain and serve The Atlantic deserve to know what precisely management has licensed to an outside firm and how, specifically, they plan to use the archive of our creative output and our work product,” The Atlantic staff union wrote in a statement.

Florida journalists sent a demand to bargain over AI after parent company Gannett started rolling out new technology that generates story highlights. Journalists at the Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News sent a letter calling on the company to cease the use of the technology until there’s an agreement on artificial intelligence. “Protections to prevent AI from threatening our jobs or our work products are deeply important to our members,” they wrote.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill that cuts public records access in the state and the NewsGuild of New York was quick to react. The new changes place significant barriers between journalists and members of the public looking to obtain public information, including allowing government officials to deny requests based on overly broad qualifiers, imposing new, narrow parameters on requesters, letting commercial requesters skip the line by paying extra fees and allowing the government to sue requestors deemed to be “substantially interrupt(ing)” of government functions.

“Make no mistake about it: This new law restricts access to public records. It makes it harder for the press and members of the public to obtain those records, and goes out of its way to scare them away from requesting them in the first place,” said Mike Davis, acting unit chair of the APP-MCJ Guild, representing journalists at the Asbury Park Press, Courier News and The Home News Tribune. “But government officials trying to hide critical information from the public is nothing new, and our journalists remain undaunted. We will continue our relentless reporting in the pursuit of holding public officials accountable and helping our readers make better-informed decisions about their lives.”

Our members at the United Food and Commercial Workers union got a “last, best and final” offer from the union leadership. We represent about 50 members at the union, mostly based in Washington, D.C. The members held a voting party, unanimously rejecting a proposal that would limit their ability to hybrid work and wage increases lower than what leadership has given other staff at the union headquarters.

The members also voted 98% in favor of striking the international union to get a fair deal. Union values need to start at home. I hope UFCW’s leadership comes to its senses quickly or we could be looking at the first open-ended strike at a union employer we have seen in a very long time.

Journalists at the Houston Landing are demanding transparency after a board meeting last month. Workers are asking for copies of the presentation at the Board of Directors meeting about the financial progress and performance of the nonprofit newsroom. This came after several high profile terminations at the newly formed newsroom and the unionization earlier this year. Our family is asking that folks send a letter to the nonprofit’s leadership demanding transparency.

Daily Beast members were disappointed by the dismissal of editor-in-chief Tracy Connor and sought answers to the newsroom’s direction. “The loss of Tracy will irrevocably change our newsroom,” workers wrote. “Going forward, we insist that new management meet with The Daily Beast Union to offer more clarity as to how these massive changes will affect our day-to-day.”

Oregon journalists shot back E.O. Media Group’s announcement of mass layoffs, furloughs and publication suspensions. “The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s decision to implement a hiring freeze and outsource design staff,” workers wrote. It can be illegal in the U.S. for companies to try and implement layoffs without an agreement after workers unionize and are in “status quo.”

This week the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers donated $5,000 to our strikers at the Post-Gazette. PFT has been one of our biggest supporters, including donating previously and allowing us to use their union hall for events. They also plan to put an ad in the PUP! Please join awesome Pittsburgh teachers and donate to our strikers.

Finally, last night I joined about 20 members of my old family at the Los Angeles Times Guild at the Exposés Gala by Capital & Main, a nonprofit news organization covering climate, inequality and working people. We are proud to support Capital & Main and were honored by their recognition of the hard work of L.A. Times journalists who have won eight Pulitzer Prizes since unionizing in 2018.

“The union insists that the costs of doing exceptional and aggressive journalism is fair pay,” Carla Hall, L.A. Times unit chair said when accepting the award. “I joined a group of union leaders, fiercely focused on one goal: if Los Angeles wants to have excellent news media that serves the city, the county, the state and the nation, the only way to do it is to invest in the journalists who do the hard work.”

“It is my honor to stand here with these hardworking and passionate journalists and union leaders,” she said.

Our union. Our big, big, big and growing union makes me so damn proud every day. All of y’all are fighting for each other and for a world that has good journalism and a functioning democracy. We have more power than we know.

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, The NewsGuild-CWA