More than 200 unionized journalists at seven newsrooms launch a one-day strike to demand fair wages, protection of 401k match
Biggest collective action against Alden Global Capital since 2021 purchase of Tribune Publishing
Alden has slow walked contract negotiations; bargaining for most units is in its fifth year
NATIONAL – More than 200 Tribune Publishing journalists, designers, and production workers at seven newsrooms across the country walked off the job for 24 hours today in a historic strike to protest the company’s refusal to pay journalists, designers and editors a fair age and management’s threat to take away the 401k match benefit. Tribune Publishing journalists at all the newsrooms are represented by The NewsGuild-CWA.
Workers will be holding a morning Zoom rally this morning to lay out their demands.
WHO: Journalists from the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Virginian-Pilot, Morning Call, Suburban Chicago Tribune, Design and Production Studios, Tribune Content Agency and NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss
WHEN: February 1, 2024 – 10:30am EST / 9:30am CST
WHERE: Zoom – RSVP Link HERE
WHO: Chicago Tribune journalists
How to help
- DO NOT click on stories from the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Virginian-Pilot, Morning Call, Suburban Chicago Tribune, Design and Production Studios, Tribune Content Agency
- DO NOT engage with social media accounts from those publications
- DO NOT open emails and news alerts from those publications
- Donate to the strikers’ support fund
Journalists will also be rallying and picketing in Chicago from 9 – 12 p.m. CST with an 11 a.m. CST press conference at the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center (560 W. Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60654).
Orlando Sentinel journalists are rallying from 11 – 1 p.m. ET at Gaston Edwards Park (1236 N. Orange Avenue).
Today’s walkout is the single largest coordinated action journalists at the company have taken against Alden Global Capital since the hedge fund purchased Tribune Publishing in 2021, in a deal that saddled Tribune Publishing with $278 million in debt. The hedge fund has been slammed for decimating the newsrooms it has acquired and strip-mining its media assets for profits. Papers owned by Alden have cut staff at twice the rate of their competitors, and circulation has fallen faster at their papers than at their peers.
Tribune Publishing journalists have been fighting for a contract through for as long as five years. (The Chicago Tribune Guild formed in 2018; the Tidewater Guild, representing The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press reporters, in 2018; and the Orlando Sentinel Guild in 2020.) Even before Alden purchased the company in 2021, Tribune Publishing had a long history of underpaying its workers. Most Tribune workers have not seen a pay raise since 2018.
Alden has slow-walked negotiations and offered non-starter proposals, including:
- A proposal that gives the company the ability to eliminate the company’s 401k match, which would jeopardize workers’ ability to retire
- Refusing to provide any across-the-board pay increases, even though most reporters haven’t had a raise in 5+ years and the cost of living in Chicago alone has jumped by about 20% since 2020.
- Proposing two years of $1,500 bonuses instead of a pay increase, which wouldn’t be enough to cover a possibly eliminated 401k match or keep salaries equitable and in line with inflation.
The company has also failed to remedy long-standing wage inequities on race and gender lines. A Chicago Tribune Guild study from 2023 showed that journalists of color at the Tribune make a median wage that’s $10K less than their white counterparts, while women typically make $20K less than their male counterparts when examining median salaries.
Alden’s cuts have hurt journalists’ ability to provide quality public information and hold power to account. The company has also gutted newsrooms: at the company’s flagship property, the Chicago Tribune, staff has been cut from 111 to 76 since June 2021.
In response, unionized journalists at papers owned by Alden have held a series of escalating collective actions to protest the company’s actions. In December, Chicago Tribune journalists and workers from the company’s design unit, syndicate and suburban properties held a protest of Alden’s management at Tribune Tower. Workers at the Alden-owned New York Daily News, who are represented by The NewsGuild of New York, held a historic walkout last week.
“We didn’t go into this job for the money, but Alden’s cuts have hit so close to the bone that we can’t even do our jobs as journalists anymore. Enough is enough. Journalists deserve to be able to retire with dignity,” said Madeline Buckley, criminal courts reporter at the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Tribune Guild unit chair. “The company’s insulting proposals on wages and benefits puts our future at risk, along with our ability to continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism this city relies upon.”
“Many of our colleagues take on second jobs or leave journalism simply to make ends meet,” said Dave Mulcahey, a Tribune Content Agency business editor. “No media outlet that cares about the quality of its product would pay its staff in this way.”
Gavin Stone, a breaking news reporter at The Virginian-Pilot, said, “Alden’s attempt to eliminate the 401k match will send reporters out the door – and hurt Virginians who rely on journalists to keep them informed and engaged with what is happening around them.”
Mario Sarmento, a liaison between the Orlando Sentinel’s design hub and the editorial department, said the move is a stab at journalists’ well-being now and down the road. “Alden already has taken our present financial security away by refusing to raise wages or give bonuses, and now they’re trying to take away our future financial security by doing away with our 401k match,” he said.
“As journalists, we do essential work and strive to do it well. But our members are spread far too thin and too often, are forced to cover all of Chicago’s suburbs with only a few other reporters alongside them,” said Tess Kenny, a general assignment reporter for the Naperville Sun.
“The company would rather give us a handful of meager bonuses and cut our 401(k) match without any thought for how that would affect us,” said Graysen Golter, a general news reporter at the Morning Call. “They tell us that if we don’t like our wages, we should get another job, leaving our readers vulnerable and without coverage.”
“We’re watching a systematic chipping away at one of the pillars of our democracy. They are literally sucking the life out of our communities’ newspapers right before our eyes. If we’re not vigilant, these vital community institutions will be gone,” said Dave Roknic, a print production specialist on the Design and Production Studio team.
A fact sheet on Alden’s impact on Tribune Publishing newsrooms can be found here.