Seeking a voice in the workplace, journalists of South Bend Tribune announce union campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2020

Contact:
Justin Hawkins at 812-797-7345 or sbnewsguild@gmail.com

SOUTH BEND, Indiana  — The award-winning newsroom staff of the South Bend Tribune took a major step Wednesday toward forming a union to give a voice in the workplace to journalists who keep the community informed and who hold local leaders accountable.

The vast majority of employees who contribute reporting, copy editing, page design and photography within The Tribune newsroom have signed cards indicating their desire to be represented by the ever-growing NewsGuild-CWA. The cards, submitted Wednesday at the National Labor Relations Board’s Indianapolis regional office, call for an election monitored by the NLRB at The Tribune in the next month unless the newspaper’s owner, Gannett, voluntarily recognizes The NewsGuild as the workers’ union.

If a majority of those casting ballots vote in favor, workers will begin negotiating with Gannett on their first labor contract.

The South Bend Tribune serves six counties in northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan. The South Bend NewsGuild would represent about 30 workers and would become the fourth active newspaper union in the state, following the Indianapolis Star, Terre Haute Tribune-Star and Gary Post Tribune.

Members of the South Bend Tribune newsroom who intend to unionize say they are taking this step to preserve the vital role The Tribune plays in telling the stories of the communities they serve.

“I am supporting the organization of the journalists at the South Bend Tribune because I want us to be able to continue covering the community I call home to the best of our ability,” said Michael Caterina, photographer with The Tribune since 2016. “The writers, photographers, editors and designers who inform the Michiana area are some of the hardest-working, most loyal people I’ve ever met, and we deserve a voice when it comes to our employment.”

In its mission statement, the South Bend NewsGuild states it “seeks to preserve the South Bend Tribune as an independent, nonpartisan source of news and entertainment for our community, one that holds the powerful accountable, gives voice to the voiceless, and shares the stories that bind the community together.”

Tyler James, a sports reporter with The Tribune since April 2012, said the newspaper “endured immense change in the past year. But I can say with certainty that The Tribune will continue to provide the journalism this community needs if the journalists tasked with doing so are given a voice in shaping its future. We are uniting as a union in the hope that we can protect The Tribune and help it thrive.”

For nearly its entire 148-year history, The Tribune was owned by a local family business that became Schurz Communications. Local ownership didn’t guarantee immunity from layoffs, pay cuts and production changes, but it meant the newspaper’s owners knew the people who worked for them and had to face the impact of their business decisions on readers.

In January 2019, The Tribune was acquired by GateHouse Media, one of the largest media companies in the country. Then, in November 2019, GateHouse merged with USA Today Network owner Gannett.

Under Gannett, The South Bend Tribune’s staff was transferred from a building that the newspaper had called home for nearly a century on Colfax Avenue in downtown South Bend. The paper now operates out of a transitional location at Union Station, 506 W. South St., while its new location at a former Studebaker building remains under construction.

In 10 months, the South Bend Tribune went from being locally owned to being a part of the largest newspaper company in American history, an organization based in suburban Washington, D.C.

“I believe journalism still is the most effective community advocate, watchdog and voice with the capacity for sharing some of the best human-interest stories,” said Rochelle Day, a page designer with The Tribune for 12 years. “To fulfill those roles, and fulfill them well, a union is a great tool to advocate for adequate resources, discourage bottom-dollar decisions and protect workers from sudden staff reductions that are made without thorough consideration of other alternatives.”

Meet people behind the South Bend NewsGuild:

Interviews with key leaders from The South Bend Tribune newsroom staff can be arranged by contacting Justin Hawkins at 812-797-7345 or sbnewsguild@gmail.com. Hawkins also can arrange interviews with Jon Schleuss, president of The NewsGuild-CWA in Washington, D.C.

Understand what we want:

  • A seat at the table
    Under the ownership of Gannett, we feel voiceless in the future of the newspaper. The success — past, present and future — of The South Bend Tribune depends on its staff. Without a voice in Gannett’s decision-making, we may be nothing more than names and numbers on a spreadsheet.
  • Strengthen the South Bend Tribune
    We want to preserve the South Bend Tribune as an independent, nonpartisan source of news and entertainment for our community, one that holds the powerful accountable, gives voice to the voiceless, and shares the stories that bind the community together.
  • Fair wages, proper severance and stable benefits
    We want to ensure the South Bend Tribune prioritizes the retention of its employees to prevent further damage to the quality of its product. A collectively bargained contract can provide The Tribune’s newsroom staff with fair wages, affordable health insurance and a reason to believe a sustained career with the paper is viable.
  • Workers’ rights preserved
    The newsroom staff deserves the right to voice concerns about the workplace without fear of retaliation. We want those protections to be assured through a contract. A strong union can safeguard our independence.

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Connect with us:
The NewsGuild organizing campaign at the South Bend Tribune can be followed on the campaign’s website at www.southbendnewsguild.com or on Twitter at @sbnewsguild (#ProtectTheTribune).

Attachments:
Click on this link — Attachments  — for access to headshots of people quoted in this news release, the logo being used by The South Bend NewsGuild organizing campaign and the campaign’s mission statement.

Mission Statement:
The South Bend NewsGuild seeks to preserve the South Bend Tribune as an independent, nonpartisan source of news and entertainment for our community, one that holds the powerful accountable, gives voice to the voiceless, and shares the stories that bind the community together. We are motivated not by any unhappiness with local management, but by the desire to strengthen our organization through collective action and support.

The union is us. Through collective action and democratic function, we fight most effectively for our common interests: dignified working conditions, ethical practices in our work, and resources that are adequate to carry out this critical mission.

About The NewsGuild-CWA:
The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 20,000 journalists and other media workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico at publications and digital sites that include The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The Indianapolis Star and Consumer Reports. Formerly known as The Newspaper Guild, the union was founded by journalists in 1933. The Guild merged with the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America in 1995.

 

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