Newsroom employees at the Record-Courier in Portage County, Ohio, announced Tuesday that they are forming a union. Staffers signed cards indicating their desire to be represented by Local 1 of the NewsGuild-CWA, which they submitted to the National Labor Relations Board. They also asked the newspaper’s owner, Gannett, to voluntarily recognize the Guild. Local 1 represents the workers’ unionized Gannett counterparts at the Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository and Massillon Independent.
The formerly family-owned newspaper was purchased in 2017 by GateHouse Media, which changed its name to Gannett following a corporate merger in 2019. Diane Smith, senior news reporter, said since the ownership changed, several of her coworkers have been laid off, and others have resigned in frustration.
“Local news matters,” she said. “It matters to our readers, and it matters to us. But without a strong staff of local journalists, important stories are more likely to be missed. We call on Gannett to invest in local journalism with fair wages and fair treatment.”
The journalists say their wages are substandard. In addition to a living wage, the journalists seek job security and a seat at the table to advocate for as much local news as possible.
Gannett, the journalists say, has engaged in corporate consolidation, including moves that have removed editorial oversight from the Record-Courier.
Longtime reporter Bob Gaetjens, former editor of the now-shuttered Gateway News, said an investment in journalism would benefit both the Record-Courier and the community.
“For the past several years, we’ve bled editorial staff; some have been laid off, others have left of their own accord,” he said. “Those of us who remain love reporting, but not necessarily the conditions we work under, from pay to the lack of colleagues that help provide a strong overall product.”