The Idaho NewsGuild won an important victory this week, when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a informal settlement agreement stipulating that McClatchy, which owns the Idaho Statesman, cannot unilaterally impose pageview quotas on the paper’s journalists.
Union members said the decision was a victory for readers as well as for employees. “The journalists of the Idaho Statesman journalists no longer have to fear losing their job for missing an arbitrary quota they had no role in setting. It means they don’t have to cede their news judgement to please Facebook’s and Google’s algorithms.”
“But most importantly, it means readers will get their information from journalists chasing news, not clicks,” they said.
The ruling by Region 7 of the NLRB was in response to an Unfair Labor Practice charge filed by union members, which alleged the company violated workers’ protections under federal labor law by unilaterally changing annual performance reviews. The Idaho NewsGuild won union recognition in April 2020.
McClatchy intended to make pageviews and other metrics a mandatory part of employee evaluations, which are used to determine raises and, the company suggested, workers’ place in line for layoffs. “This was brand new to the Idaho Statesman,” union members employees said.
Workers protested internally for months, warning McClatchy that unilaterally imposing the new standards was a violation of its legal obligation to bargain with the union over changes to term of employment. When the company plowed ahead anyway, they initiated the Unfair Labor Practice charge.
“Our most impactful stories — the ones that hold leaders accountable and help you lead a better life — are rarely the ones with the most pageviews,” the union wrote in announcing the decision to readers. “McClatchy’s plan would have led us to deemphasize or abandon those stories in favor of the day’s viral headline.
“Valuable insights can be gleaned from measuring readership,” they said. “But this illegal change threatened our credibility and our relationship with readers, who made it clear they wanted no part in this.
“We owe a heartfelt thank you to all the readers who stood with us in this fight,” they told readers. “It can be scary to take on a national corporation. But you showed we are not alone in the fight to #ProtectIdahoNews.”