Record-Courier staffers to vote on unionization

The journalists of the Record-Courier in Portage County, Ohio, won a favorable ruling from the National Labor Relations Board on March 3 and will begin voting on unionization next week.

Newsroom staffers first sought recognition of their union in July 2021. Gannett, which owns the Courier, refused to voluntarily recognize the union and challenged staffers’ filing before the NLRB.

“We are excited about this precedent-setting ruling, which makes history for the Record-Courier,” said Diane Smith, senior news reporter. “However, this delay comes at a great cost to Portage County. Two of our reporters, both enthusiastic union supporters, resigned in recent months, both driven out by low pay.”

Ballots will be mailed to newsroom staff on March 15, and will be counted at the NLRB office in Cleveland on April 6. The five remaining reporters and photographer will vote whether to join forces with the existing NewsGuild unit at the Akron Beacon-Journal, a move designed to gain leverage and bargaining power for the smaller staff. The Beacon-Journal newsroom has been represented by the Guild for more than 80 years.

“After our victory, we look forward to negotiating a fair contract, one that will address pay inequities and ensure the strength of local news for Portage County.” Smith said.

All newsroom staff members previously signed cards that were filed with the National Labor Relations Board, indicating their desire to be represented by the fast-growing NewsGuild-CWA.

The staffers will become part of Local 1 of the NewsGuild-CWA. In addition to including their Gannett counterparts at the Akron Beacon Journal, Local 1 includes employees of the Canton Repository and Massillon Independent.

The once family-owned newspaper was purchased in 2017 by GateHouse Media, which changed its name to Gannett following a corporate merger in 2019. Since the ownership change, several journalists have been laid off, and others have resigned in frustration. Most recently, Kaitlyn McGarvey and Bob Gaetjens turned in their resignations, both citing low pay. Both earned less than $15 per hour, despite college degrees and years of experience.

The journalists describe their wages as “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. Smith said the staff is “deeply concerned” that Gannett has refused to replace at least one of the recent departures. Management, she said, has recently promised to replace the second reporter to resign, but the staff member has not yet been hired.

Workers are confident of victory when the votes are counted.

Follow the Record-Courier Guild on Twitter @RCNewsguild.