Digital journalists of Seattle Times announce union organizing campaign

May 26, 2020 – The digital journalists at the Seattle Times announced plans Tuesday to unionize and to join their colleagues in the Pacific Northwest local of The NewsGuild-CWA. More than 100 Seattle Times journalists are already members of the union.

The unit will have approximately 15 members and will represent digital producers, engagement editors, video journalists and web developers. Organizers presented Seattle Times management with a request for voluntary recognition.

If management refuses to voluntarily recognize the union, workers will file for an election with the National Labor Relations Board.

In a mission statement, the journalists wrote that they had been preparing to form a union for months, beginning before the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“Increasing digital subscriptions will be key in sustaining The Seattle Times’ revenue growth, especially as we lead a pack of major metropolitan newspapers pivoting away from advertising revenue,” the statement said. “This digital-first growth isn’t possible without the know-how of our digital journalists.

“We’re joining our fellow journalists in the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild to continue creating innovative journalism without an arbitrary divide between print and digital roles.”

The union intends to advocate for job security, pay equity, and basic protections enjoyed by Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild members.

“We are organizing precisely because we appreciate the local, independent ownership at The Seattle Times and value our roles in providing vital information to the community,” engagement editor Michelle Baruchman said. “In order to continue doing so, we are fighting for basic job protections, reasonable support especially amid uncertain economic times, and tangible opportunities for growth and development. As our company transitions to a greater digital presence, the journalists who have been integral in that effort deserve protections that can preserve the innovation and impact we strive to bring to our community.”

Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild board members voiced support for the effort in a letter to Seattle Times management.

“We are thrilled the digital workers of The Seattle Times have announced their intention to join our union,” President Evan Bush wrote. “Their work, ever essential, has been crucial to providing the public timely information and important journalism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Welcoming these workers into our union will correct a long-standing mistake when digital workers were left out. They deserve the same protections and benefits as our members. We urge The Seattle Times management to voluntarily recognize these workers’ collective voice. They have the votes, the will and our fulsome support.”

The digital journalists’ organizing campaign is part of a recent surge in NewsGuild organizing drives around the country. Recent Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild victories include the Idaho Statesman, the (Vancouver, Wash.) Columbian and Crosscut/KCTS 9.

The Seattle Times is the second-largest newspaper on the West Coast and has won 11 Pulitzer Prizes. It was founded in 1896 by Alden J. Blethen and remains a family-owned business, now led by publisher Frank Blethen. The company also owns the Yakima Herald-Republic and The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

Follow the organizing campaign on Twitter @STdigitalunion.