Newsletter: Update from Toledo and Pittsburgh, job opening and a note to Alden

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The Arizona Republic Guild had a lot to brag about when they tweeted about the biggest wins from their first year as a unionized newsroom: Beating back management’s threats to cut their 401(k) match, protecting producers from a round of unpaid furloughs by negotiating for volunteers and winning “due process,” to name a few. They also raised close to $1,000 for college journalism scholarships.

“The Arizona Republic Guild was founded to fight for better working conditions for our journalists and to protect local journalism,” they wrote. They’re off to a great start!

We won a victory at the end of December that’s truly worth celebrating. After six days of uncertainty, on Dec. 27 President Trump signed a COVID relief bill that includes a NewsGuild-supported provision that could save thousands of news industry jobs. The provision expands eligibility for forgivable loans to publicly-traded newspaper companies with more than one location as long as the location does not have more than 1,000 employees.

This accomplishment could help protect thousands of news industry jobs. It also demonstrates the value and necessity of activism in the political arena on behalf of journalism. Now our emphasis will shift toward longer-term goals: We need a new business model that provides for more journalism jobs, more local ownership and more press freedom.  

The Pittsburgh and Toledo locals have charged their papers’ owners with manipulating coverage of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol to paint President Donald Trump in a positive light and to muddy the waters about who was responsible for the mayhem.

There was a systematic effort by management to downplay the forces at work for political purposes, said Nolan Rosenkrans, a Blade reporter and president of the Toledo Newspaper Guild. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, both owned by John and Allan Block, endorsed Trump for president last year and have been big supporters.

Susan Allan Block, the wife of Allan Block, shared an inflammatory post in support of the mob that included a sexist slur aimed at the incoming vice president. After the Guild locals brought their complaints to light, the post was deleted and Block resigned from her position as a state-appointed member of the Ohio Arts Council.

Journalists engaged in a three-day byline strike to protest management’s actions and to show solidarity with readers who were outraged by management’s actions and by the inflammatory post.

The United Media Guild is seeking candidates for a Staff Representative/Contract Campaign Lead position. The successful applicant will begin working remotely and move to Texas when it is safe. The assignment will last one year, with a possible extension for an additional year.

This is a hands-on job. The successful applicant will work daily with bargaining committees, shop stewards, contract action teams and the membership to help build a member-led contract campaign and unit structure. Only people with extensive experience running contract campaigns, bargaining and organizing should apply. Send a resumé, cover letter and three references to Shannon Duffy,, by Jan. 22.

In response to an uptick in attacks on journalists, we’ll be hosting a webinar for NewsGuild members on Trauma Aware Reporting and Self Care Amid Crisis at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, Jan. 21. The panel will be led by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. If you’d like to attend, please register by 6 p.m. We’ve also curated a good selection of resources on the subject.

The Chicago News Guild has called for the removal of three members of the Tribune Board of Directors, citing a breach of fiduciary duties. A shareholder proposal sent to the Tribune Board Chairman cites misconduct by directors Randall D. Smith, Dana Goldsmith Needleman, and Christopher Minnetian related to recently disclosed action by Mr. Smith – Alden Global Capital’s founder.

Dealings outlined in recent Alden SEC filings show that Alden representatives who serve on the Tribune Publishing board have put their own interests ahead of shareholders.

Alden, which is widely known as the “destroyer of newspapers,” has laid off news employees at twice the industry rate and rakes in profits well above industry norms.

Several new Guild units won recognition in recent weeks:
 The journalists of the Lawrence Journal-World voted in favor of forming a union in balloting that was counted Dec. 27 via Zoom by the National Labor Relations Board. “We are excited about the results of the vote, and we’re looking forward to fair and cordial negotiations with management,” said Mackenzie Clark, a public safety reporter at the Douglas County, Kan., paper.

And eight months after they announced they were unionizing, the workers at Wired have wrestled recognition of their union from management. Just 10 days after the employees of AccessMatters announced they were organizing, they won voluntary recognition of their union from management of the nonprofit. “Sun in the sky, snow on the ground, and labor rights in the air??? It’s a beautiful day in Philly, y’all: AccessMatters Union has been officially recognized by management,” they tweeted on Dec. 17. “Next stop? The bargaining table!” The staff of SEIU Local 73 voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with the Chicago News Guild. And the workers of Verso Books won voluntary union recognition from management of the publishing house after an arbitrator certified on Dec. 8 that a majority of employees in the unit had signed cards indicating support for joining the Washington-Baltimore Local of The NewsGuild-CWA. Perhaps most thrilling is the news that the workers of Alphabet – Google’s parent company – formed a union with our parent union, the CWA.

Must reads:
In “Tribune Blues,” Jim Friedlich wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review, “An Alden purchase of all of Tribune doesn’t have to be a fait accompli. In fact, the threat of such a deal represents an opportunity for civic-minded local investors across the country, who could use this case to not only save a critical local news institution, but to reinvent it.”

And check out, “The enduring lessons of a New Deal writers project,” by Jon Allsop, also in CJR, which notes that, “While the project’s stated aim was to offer an economic lifeline to the unemployed, its managers had loftier cultural ambitions.”

In solidarity,
Jon Schleuss
President, NewsGuild-CWA

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