Newsletter: Vultures are circling

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Wall Street vultures are circling local news again and this time it’s at TEGNA, a local news broadcaster that operates 66 stations in 54 communities. Standard General and Apollo Global Management are attempting a takeover of the company and it will almost certainly mean fewer local news journalists and higher costs for consumers.

If you’re a Guild member, I need your help to stop this takeover of local news.

Guild members across the U.S. are downloading and completing this declaration form, which we’ll file along with our opposition in front of the Federal Communications Commission.

If you live in a community with a TEGNA station, please complete this declaration and return it to us. More information here. Your voice will help save local news jobs.

Just last week I called on President Biden
 to urge the Federal Communications Commission to reject the attempt. I asked the president to stand with journalists, labor unions, consumers, hard-working families and other Americans who are concerned about the state of local news coverage and its impact on our democracy.

The Wall Street mega-funds secured financing for the attempted takeover by indicating they plan to cut journalism jobs, which would undermine local news. I pointed out that with less local news, communities will suffer from lower voter participation, higher taxes, more corruption and increased partisanship.

The letter to Biden was a follow-up to the Guild’s May call for a delay – which we won – in the timeline for opposing the merger.  

Was that the Reckoning? Addressing anti-Black racism in the news industry. That’s the subject of a Guild assembly set for 8 pm ET, Wed, June 15. It will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the landmark 1619 Project; NewsGuild of New York President Susan DeCarava, and Desiree Stennett, race and equity reporter for the Orlando Sentinel.

As organized media workers, we have an opportunity to hold our employers — and ourselves — accountable. I hope you’ll join us. Register here.

Journalists at the Idaho Statesman voted unanimously to ratify their first contract at the end of May, two years after they voted unanimously to form the Idaho NewsGuild.

Highlights of the agreement include:                                                    

  • Raises of 9.9% to 27.7% for full-time employees
  • Guaranteed yearly raises
  • $1,000 signing bonus
  • $48,000 minimum salary for all current full-time journalists
  • Bonuses for night work
  • Protections against outsourcing
  • Just-cause provisions
  • Parental leave
  • Improved vacation benefits
  • Increased the workweek from 37.5 hours to 40 hours per week
  • Company-provided cell phones
  • Health and safety protections
  • Prohibits management from imposing nondisclosure agreements on employees when settling claims of discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual assault.

During the two years between the formation of the union and ratification of the first contract, McClatchy, which owns the Statesman, denied workers benefits granted to non-union employees, fired a highly respected editor who advocated for more resources for the newsroom, and tried – unsuccessfully – to force page view quotas on journalists.

“McClatchy tried to divide us at every turn,” said Michael Lycklama, a sports writer and bargaining committee member. “But we didn’t just survive. We emerged stronger each time.”

It was a good week for members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild!

The bargaining committee of the Washington State NewsGuild reached a tentative agreement with McClatchy on a first contract. The agreement will cover journalists at four publications: the Bellingham Herald, Tri-City Herald, Tacoma News Tribune and Olympian.

The agreement follows about a year of bargaining. “Our members never stopped fighting to protect local news and for what they deserve,” members of the unit tweeted the day after they reached the agreement.

Highlights of the deal include:

  • Minimum salaries of $48K for current journalists
  • An end to two-tiered salary floors at the papers
  • Guaranteed raises in the second and third years of the agreement
  • Protections against outsourcing
  • Return to a 40-hour work week, which will result in a large restoration of pay for union members

Workers at a dozen Gannett-owned news outlets in the Atlantic region have racked up some impressive wins recently.

How did they do it? Collective action. Members sent letters to management detailing how Gannett’s low mileage reimbursement affected them and shared their stories online on #MileageMondays. They also filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board when management engaged in unfair labor practices. As the date for NLRB hearings approached, Gannett approached the Guild about settling the complaints.

“All of this was possible because of the strength of our union. The fight certainly isn’t over yet. We have even more to win,” union members said.

Members of the NBC Guild stopped work for 13 minutes last week to protest more than 13 months of management foot-dragging on their pay equity proposal in bargaining. The union’s proposal would establish an annual study to identify and close pay gaps.

“Fair pay is a bedrock issue for us, and we refuse to allow our editorial leadership to stick their heads in the sand and ignore it. We recently completed our own pay study and tried to share the results at our last bargaining session,” but no one in management showed up, they said.

Union members stopped work to encourage their bosses to come to the table and bargain in good faith. “No more delays, no more excuses, no more foot dragging — it’s time for fair pay,” they tweeted.

In February, after 18 months of bargaining, workers negotiated a tentative agreement on diversity, equity and inclusion. They reached agreement after workers packed a bargaining session where members shared emotional testimony about their experiences with newsroom microaggressions, pay inequity, and lack of opportunity.

Congratulations to the journalists of the Public News Service, who won voluntary recognition of their union on May 24.

“We’re thrilled that management @PNS_News has voluntarily recognized our union,” members of the Public News Service Union said in a tweet. “We look forward to negotiating our first contract and working with management to create a sustainable and equitable future for PNS.”

The journalists want to keep independent journalism alive and bring their workplace closer to the values their reporting promotes. They are pushing for a fair contract and better working conditions that will help secure the future of PNS News.

The group of about 25 reporters, editors, audio engineers, outreach and membership specialists join Minnesota Newspaper & Communications Guild Local 37002. More than 6,000 news outlets regularly use their stories.

Members of the Canadian Media Guild at Thomson Reuters voted unanimously to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement last month. Highlights include salary increases of 11.5% over the four years of the contract and improvements for temporary employees such as sick leave and conversion to permanent status.

We’ve got some outstanding training sessions scheduledUpcoming events are listed on our calendar. Here are the workshops set for the next several weeks:

Steward Training Module 6 – Anti-Harassment Workshop – 6-8 pm ET, Tues, June 14
Register here.
Effective Meeting Facilitation – 6:30-7:30 pm ET, Tue, June 14
Register here.
Was that the Reckoning? Addressing anti-Black racism in the news industry – 8-9:30 pm ET, Wed, June 15
Register here.
Moving Your Coworkers to Action – 6-7 pm ET, Thurs, June 23
Register here.
Labor Law 101 – 6-8:30 pm ET, June 29
Register here.

Sign up for the June Side-by-Side Program! Workers are organizing with The NewsGuild-CWA at unprecedented rates and union staffers are on the front lines – offering training and developing workers into organizers. And yet, because we have so much exciting work to do, we often don’t get the chance to see each other in action and reflect on our work. One way to take on this challenge is to create a structured opportunity for staff to engage in side-by-side work. This peer observer model, advocated by CWA, is an effective model of collaborative staff development. The June theme is: Meeting Facilitation Prep
Register here.

NewsGuild members have been making news! Here are some clips.

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, NewsGuild-CWA