Voice Media Guild members ratify first contracts

After 10 months of bargaining, Voice Media Guild — comprising members from sister publications Miami New Times and Phoenix New Times — have ratified their first contracts. The contracts secure numerous hard-fought workplace protections and enhanced employee benefits for union and non-union staff.

They join a growing list of NewsGuild-CWA units to win first collective bargaining agreements.

“By working together, we are raising the standard for reporters in our markets and building a future for journalism in Florida and Arizona,” said Joshua Ceballos, a Miami New Times staff writer and bargaining committee member. Workers won new minimum salaries and “just cause” protections.

The Miami staffers are part of CWA Local 3108 in Florida while the Phoenix cohort is part of Media Guild of the West Local 39213. The publications are owned by Denver-based Voice Media Group, which also oversees three alt-weeklies in Dallas, Denver, Houston.

“Voice Media Guild is delivering results for our members,” said Josh Kelety, a Phoenix New Times staff writer and bargaining committee member. “These contracts will improve working conditions and make our newsrooms better.”

The union prevailed following nearly a year of bargaining and ratified their contract unanimously in both workplaces. The agreement took effect this month.

“At a pivotal and volatile moment in our industry, VMG’s first-ever contracts are another step forward in the broader trend of unionizations in newsrooms and preserving the role of the alternative press,” union members said in a statement.

“With the Miami and Phoenix newsrooms working in tandem, our coordinated bargaining efforts bolstered members’ demands and created a surround-sound effect on management that yielded more success than either shop could have won on its own.”

Among some the contractual improvements:

  • New base pay minimums of $42,000 per year for full-time staff writers and $20 per hour for part-time employees
  • Regular annual pay increases for all employees
  • Just cause protections
  • Doubled vacation for new employees – from five to 10 days per year
  • Paid time off for education and tuition reimbursement
  • Mileage reimbursement at the IRS rate
  • Recognition of Martin Luther King Day as an additional paid holiday
  • Guaranteed advance notice and severance in the event of layoffs

“Through the hard work of our members on opposite sides of the country, we worked to make New Times a more suitable place to work in the long-term, where writers and staff can feel protected while they apply their craft,” Ceballos said.

An organizing committee with members from both publications announced in January 2020 their intent to form a union. Voice Media Group initially refused to voluntarily recognize the union, resulting in multi-day court hearings in which union members ultimately prevailed.

Phoenix and Miami staffers won their respective union elections in June and August 2020 and have been bargaining collectively with Voice Media Group managers since November 2020.

Follow them on Twitter @VMGGuild.com.