Newsletter: Unions and…Fortnite?

The media industry has been on a wild ride so far this year. Layoffs across the industry from the Wall Street Journal, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Los Angeles Times, Messenger and this week, Vice Media.

Vice Media workers are represented by our family at the Writers Guild of America, East and I hope you’ll stand with everyone impacted by management’s decision to cut hundreds of jobs. Last year, Vice was acquired by Fortress Investment Group after declaring bankruptcy. Fortress is the same private equity group that controlled Gatehouse before it merged with Gannett. Gannett’s current CEO Mike Reed was a Fortress employee and the company has been poorly run now for several years. Fortress is responsible for cutting thousands of Gannett jobs too.

And this week, Gannett wanted to create some good news for itself by announcing a $2 million investment in the Indianapolis Star. It’s great that Gannett is investing in local news, especially in a newsroom with union journalists. However, it shouldn’t be big news that a local news publisher is investing in…local news. That’s literally the role of the company. To spin it as a PR-positive is a bit much. Thousands of Gannett journalists have been demanding investment for decades. It ain’t rocket science. Don’t let them forget it.

IGN workers just won their union! A supermajority of editorial and creative workers at IGN signed union cards and launched their campaign on February 6. Well, just yesterday, Ziff Davis management voluntarily recognized them after more than 5,700 supporters signed a petition demanding recognition. Congratulations to everyone at IGN!

Would you like to meet some of the workers and ask them questions and cheer them on? I’m going to hang out with the members on Twitch, the video game streaming website at 8 p.m. ET Monday, February 26. We’re going to play Fortnite and talk about why they formed a union. I’m a bit tickled to talk with our union’s newest members and show that I’m terrible at video games.

Follow The NewsGuild-CWA on Twitch now to get notified when we go live and set yourself a reminder. It’ll be very silly and I look forward to talking with more of our members while gaming in the future.

On Monday Houston Landing employees launched their union campaign at the nonprofit newsroom. They’ve got one of the cutest logos I’ve seen with a fountain pen turned spaceship.

For the last eight months, Landing journalists and staff worked together to publish numerous community-centered stories that deepen Houstonians’ understanding of their community. They’ve exceeded expectations for traffic and viewership. However, management terminated the Landing’s founding editor-in-chief and sole investigative reporter in January. Organizers notified management of their intent to unionize Monday, six weeks to the day of the firings.

Emily Datsko, a web designer at the Landing, supports forming a union because she believes workers “have a right to protect themselves in an industry full of constant uncertainty and change.”

“As a designer in this newsroom, I rely on my coworkers’ compelling work to drive everything I create,” Datsko said. “I believe in the impactful work we’ve done and will continue to do at the Landing, and that work can only be completed successfully if we, as workers, are unified and protected together.”

Journalists at the San Antonio Express-News and MySA announced their campaign to unionize just two days ago. The paper is owned by Hearst, which has a bad history of fighting journalists. The company pretty quickly refused to voluntarily recognize the workers. Bosses said they want to delay workers unionizing to tell them why it’s a bad idea. (checks notes) 6,793 media workers have unionized with The NewsGuild-CWA from 117 workplaces since 2018. (scratches head)

We’ll be supporting the workers and will make sure that Hearst follows the law. Workers always win when we stick together against the division created by the boss.

“We love the San Antonio Express-News, and we love doing journalism in this old town. Those are the same reasons we’ve taken this extraordinary step to stand together as members of the San Antonio NewsGuild,” said Elaine Ayala, a metro columnist for the Express-News. “We didn’t come to this decision lightly. We made it after careful reflection of this newsroom’s past, present and future. The truth is we’ve needed union representation at the Express-News for a long time, and we’re glad this day has finally arrived. What we know now is that we promise to continue to produce good journalism, to be faithful to our jobs and to one another, and to work with management to reach common goals.”

This is the FOURTH newsroom to unionize in Texas in the last month! San Antonio Report and Texas Tribune were already voluntarily recognized. Still waiting on Houston Landing.

CQ Roll Call workers officially won their union this week! The workers had an NLRB election after the employer refused to grant them voluntary recognition. More than 90% of the members voted yes.

“We all knew we were going to win our election, but I’m excited the moment is finally here, and I can’t wait to celebrate this win with my colleagues,” said Jessie Hellmann, a health policy reporter at CQ Roll Call and a member of the guild’s organizing committee. “Now the work begins to fight for a fair contract that guarantees fair pay and benefits and makes CQ Roll Call a place people want to stay and grow at.”

“I was involved with the guild in a prior job and saw firsthand how powerful a union can be in helping to build a stronger, more equitable workplace,” said Daniela Altimari, a campaigns reporter at CQ Roll Call and a former member of the Hartford Courant Guild. “I can’t wait to get started!”

Earlier this month workers at Index Media launched their union campaign with the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild. The workers — 22 reporters, editors, photographers, graphic designers, videographers, IT workers, marketing professionals and client relations workers at several publications signed cards and are fighting for union recognition. They’re from The Stranger, the Portland Mercury, EverOut Seattle, EverOut Portland, and Bold Type Tickets.

“Through our reporting, we’ve come to understand that people who work in all fields can and should form unions,” Portland Mercury reporter Taylor Griggs told the Northwest Labor Press. “We want to live up to the values we espouse in our reporting…. I think there’s some kind of relationship to be gained here that hopefully will make us more sustainable and make it easier to keep people longer.”

Are you going to Labor Notes? This year’s conference will be massive, with potentially 4,000 workers joined from all backgrounds to share their minds and help build a broader labor movement that fights for democracy in our unions and in our workplaces. The conference will be near Chicago O’Hare airport from April 19-21. All the details are here. About 100 NewsGuild-CWA members attended the last conference and I’m hearing that the hotels are filling up. We’re sponsoring 11 members to attend the conference this year and several Guild locals are also sponsoring members.

The NewsGuild’s Executive Council is meeting at 7p.m. ET February 27. Members can attend and observe. Register here. We’ll be discussing our AI policy positions as a union. You have to be a member to observe. Read about all our leaders here.

The International Federation of Journalists is calling on us to support Palestinian journalists this Monday, February, 26. We’re members of the federation of media unions worldwide and donated $10,000 to IFJ’s Safety Fund to support journalists working in dangerous areas like Gaza. Donate to the Safety Fund here. IFJ is asking for rallies, speeches, public meetings, social media threads, all opportunities are necessary to remind all citizens that the freedom to inform has a price, in Gaza more than elsewhere. Since October at least 100 journalists have been killed during this war, more than any other in the last several decades. They’re asking folks to use the hashtag #SupportPalestinianJournalists and tag IFJ on social media.

  • X/Twitter: @IFJGlobal
  • Facebook: @InternationalFederationofJournalists
  • Instagram: @ifj_journalist
  • Linkedin: @InternationalFederationofJournalists

We’re hiring a comms director with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. WBNG has more than 70 bargaining units and thousands of members and we are in desperate need of comms support at the international. I’m excited about this partnership. More details here. We’d obviously love to hire a Guild member!

Buffalo Newspaper Guild and United Media Guild leaders wrote to Lee Enterprise shareholders this weekcalling on the large newspaper chain to invest in local news and digital operations. Both The Buffalo News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are owned by Lee Enterprises, and Guild members are in about a dozen Lee newsrooms.

“If you only knew” is how the letter starts. That Lee has alienated readers. That lee has failed to capitalize on the strengths of journalists. That they have hastened the decline of print without providing a user-friendly digital option. That Lee fails at customer service. At mobile apps. At articulating a clear vision for the future. If you only knew.

Now shareholders know.

Workers consistently know what the issues are: at the Messenger, WAMU, L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, The Buffalo News, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Workers know the issues and they know how to fix them.

Family, continue fighting to hold the boss to account, to fix our workplaces and to create a better world.

In Solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, The NewsGuild-CWA