MADISON / MILWAUKEE — An overwhelming majority of non-managerial employees of Wisconsin Watch, an award-winning, nonprofit newsroom, announced Monday they had organized as the Wisconsin Watch Union.
Members of the union organizing committee presented Wisconsin Watch CEO George Stanley, Wisconsin Watch Board of Directors Chair Brant Houston and other members of the organization’s board of directors with a request for voluntary recognition after 80% of eligible staffers signed cards signaling their desire to be represented by Wisconsin Watch Union.
The union will be affiliated with The NewsGuild-CWA, the nation’s largest union for journalists and other news industry workers.
Wisconsin Watch Union will represent around 10 workers across the business and editorial sides of the organization, including staffers, fellows and interns.
“I’m organizing because I love Wisconsin Watch and want it to become its best possible self: a thriving and inclusive organization,” said Phoebe Petrovic, Wisconsin Watch’s longest-tenured investigative reporter. “I believe deeply in journalism as a public service, I think this organization is well positioned to serve the people of our state. My colleagues do phenomenal work every day, and I believe creating more democracy in the world is an unequivocal good.”
Petrovic was echoed by investigative reporter Jacob Resneck.
“I hope the public doesn’t misread our organizing as a vote of no confidence against Wisconsin Watch,” said Resneck. “On the contrary, we are doing this because we think it’ll make our organization more resilient in years to come.”
He continued: “Forming a union is the tried-and-true way to inject democracy into your workplace. That’s why my colleagues and I have come together to lead by example.”
In a mission statement distributed throughout the newsroom Monday morning, staff wrote: “For nearly 15 years, Wisconsin Watch has delivered the long-form, thorough investigative reporting our state needs. Our commitment to serving the people of Wisconsin through award-winning journalism remains unwavering.”
“We joined Wisconsin Watch because we believe in its mission: increasing the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism in Wisconsin to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy,” the mission statement continues. “We make Wisconsin Watch. To best fulfill that duty and live the organization’s values, the rank-and-file workers across business and editorial must play a greater role in decision-making about the structural, strategic and financial future of Wisconsin Watch.”
Wisconsin Watch staff members’ union campaign comes amid an upsurge in successful organizing drives in newsrooms across the country. For example, workers at fellow nonprofit newsroom ProPublica won voluntary recognition in August.
Founded in 2009, Wisconsin Watch is a nationally recognized nonprofit newsroom that began as the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Until July, it was led by its co-founders, Andy and Dee Hall. The married couple retired this summer. George Stanley, former editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has since been tapped to lead the organization as CEO.