June 23, 2020 – Two new units of The NewsGuild-CWA scored big victories on Tuesday, defeating union-busting efforts by Gannett, the nation’s biggest newspaper chain.
Just hours apart, workers at the Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News voted 55-0 to form the Palm Beach News Guild and workers at Naples Daily News and Ft. Myers News-Press voted 38-6 (86 percent) to form the Southwest Florida News Guild.
The workers’ victories followed a concerted effort by Gannett management to delay voting and subvert the union campaign. In-person balloting, which was originally scheduled for March, was cancelled by the National Labor Relations Board due to safety concerns caused by the coronavirus.
Gannett’s management took full advantage of the health crisis, repeatedly opposing mail-in voting for the two Florida groups and for the Delaware NewsGuild in filings before the NLRB while publicly denying that they objected to the process. Both CNN Business and the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the company’s opposition to mail-in voting and the discrepancies between their public statements and the motions they filed with the NLRB.
The delays resulted in costly legal fees for management and the union, and left workers disenfranchised in the face of company-wide furloughs, which unionized shops are entitled to negotiate over.
“Our newsrooms’ all-but-unprecedented unanimous vote sends a tremendous message: that we are as united as can be, that we are intent on preserving our institution and its values, and that we will fight hard for security, equity and transparency,” the Palm Beach News Guild’s organizing committee said after the vote count.
“Today’s win has been a long time coming,” the Southwest Florida News Guild’s organizing committee said. “After many months of organizing and delays, we’re looking forward to meeting Gannett at the bargaining table where we will continue to fight for better working conditions for our colleagues and for the future of local journalism in Southwest Florida.”
Throughout the legal wrangling, journalists at the papers maintained their commitment to forming a union, called on the company to agree to a set of rules for a fair election (which the company ignored), alerted the public to management’s attempt to thwart their right to vote, waged a subscription campaign, and kept the pressure on management.
Gannett’s disinformation prompted NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss to release a video calling on Maribel Wadsworth, president of the company’s USA Today Network, to “stop lying and stop disenfranchising journalists.”
During the more-than-three-month delay, employees of non-Gannett publications – including the Idaho Statesman (McClatchy), the Roanoke Times (Lee Enterprises) and the Orlando Sentinel (Tribune) – conducted mail-in ballots.
The journalists of Gannett’s Delaware Online and The News Journal, who announced their union campaign on March 2, are voting by mail, with ballots set to be counted on July 14.
The victories in Palm Beach and Southwest Florida are part of a surge in union organizing, especially in Florida, which has added seven new units in the last four years.