Newsletter: We are worth more.

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Over the weekend there was devastating news out of Buffalo, N.Y. Ten people were killed and three wounded when a gunman opened fire in a supermarket on Saturday in an act of racist violence. My heart goes out to the people of Buffalo, which is known as the city of good neighbors. I commend the brave reporting by Buffalo Newspaper Guild journalists. Members “jumped into action to faithfully tell the story. It’s a task we will continue to vigorously pursue.”

On Friday I drove up to Allentown, Pa. and rallied with the journalists at the Morning Call, who staged a one-day work stoppage protesting the company’s bad faith bargaining, pay inequities, lack of newsroom diversity and discriminatory practices. “We are worth more,” the workers chanted.

Pay is deplorably low across the board, women are paid 23% less on average than men, and workers receive no compensation for the costs associated with working from home. Allentown is 54% Hispanic, yet there is just one journalist of color at the paper, a supervisor.

Several community leaders and politicians showed up, including Malcolm Kenyatta, who’s running for U.S. Senate. “Bravery is contagious,” he told the crowd gathering in a park.

The Call journalists join those at several other publications who have withheld their labor to oppose management’s pathetic proposals including the folks at the Miami Herald, Ziff Davis, Buzzfeed News and Condé Nast.

We continue to stand by the journalists at the Morning Call and support them and the other bargaining units at Alden-owned Tribune Publishing in winning a first contract.

TIME Union members announced plans for a one-day strike on May 23 if agreement on a contract is not reached before then. They picked May 23 to coincide with the release of the annual TIME100 edition.

TIME management has delayed reaching a deal for nearly three years. Union members are demanding fair wages with guaranteed yearly increases, protections from being disciplined for failing to hit certain metrics, and a contract that covers all workers across the editorial departments.

The unit, which covers about 100 editorial employees, includes staffers of TIME digital and TIME for Kids. They organized in 2019, joining their print colleagues who have been unionized for about 80 years.

“I’m willing to walk out because a strong contract that covers all of us, not just some of us, will allow us to do the work we love under the conditions we deserve,” said Brian Bennett, senior White House correspondent.

More than 1,000 workers have joined The NewsGuild already this year! We hit this milestone last week when workers at the Bangor Daily News and Financial Times US newsrooms officially won voluntary recognition. I’m so thrilled to welcome these workers — and those from 17 other workplaces — into our union family.

Following a growing tradition of open bargaining across the Guild, workers at the Politico and E&E newsrooms announced the start of bargaining this way:

“Shot: We successfully presented our contract proposal to management today.

“Chaser: So many members came to observe, we slammed into the 100-attendee Zoom limit and had to upgrade our account.”

Transparency is a key ingredient in building a strong union. Love that they broke their own zoom!

Journalists proposed a pay structure that will help close the wage gap for women and people of color; overtime/on-call pay; improvements to their 401(k) plan; a PTO plan that guarantees them enough time off, and hiring measures to encourage diversity and better commuter benefits.

A report by the University of North Carolina took a dive into the unionization wave at local newsrooms over the last five years. You all have done outstanding work!

“Through bargaining, contracts are able to guarantee union members certain benefits, such as an increase in pay, a guaranteed salary floor, better layoff policies and more,” the report notes. “Others won ‘just cause’ protections, which require employers to justify decisions to terminate employees. Some have also been able to protect jobs that are often outsourced — such as photojournalists and videographers.

The report notes that some units have used contract negotiations to push for greater commitment to diverse and inclusive workforces and cites contract language won by the LA Times GuildMontana News Guild and VTDigger Guild.

But the conclusion that struck me most was this: “Unionization often offers a greater sense of community within the organization and a deeper connection to other journalists.”

Anyone who’s built up their union — whether a new one or a long-established one — knows this to be true.

Staffers of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative voted unanimously to approve their first contract last week.

Beginning in July, the minimum annual salary will reflect the income necessary to pay the cost of a two-bedroom apartment in the area as measured by the HUD Fair Market Rent tool without spending more than 30% of employees’ income on rent.

Workers also won significantly higher employer contributions to healthcare for dependents, an FMLA leave benefit and structured, ongoing collaboration between management and staff.

Members of the Beacon Union celebrate their first contract.

Members of the Canadian Media Guild reached a tentative agreement with Thomson Reuters last week after a long bargaining process.

The four-year deal contains improvements in pay and working conditions for all members, including temporary workers. Highlights include 3% wage increases in the first three years and 2.5% in the fourth.

The bargaining committee pushed back against management’s demands for concessions. The agreement preserves workers’ current defined benefit plan for existing employees and provides for a slightly different but comparable defined benefit plan for new hires.

We condemn the killing of Shireen Abu Akleha renowned Palestinian-American reporter for Al Jazeera, who was fatally shot on May 11 while covering an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank. The network reported that she was targeted by Israeli forces and shot in the head. An injury to one of us is an injury to all.

Congratulations to Pulitzer winners and finalists! Last Monday feels like an eternity ago, but several Guild members won or were finalists for outstanding journalism. We continue to produce amazing work in the face of corporate overlords who do not show us the respect we deserve. The folks at the Miami Herald were recognized for their breaking news coverage of the Surfside condo collapse last summer. And the workers were quick to point out that they did this work while locked in a two-year long contract battle with McClatchy.

Julie K. Brown, who’s reporting brought down Jeffrey Epstein, said, “After @MiamiHerald ’s Pulitzer Prize it’s worth reminding people that we no longer have a newsroom — and most of the very journalists responsible for this prize had their pay docked last month by @mcclatchy because we are still fighting for benefits like maternity leave!”

This is shameful behavior from McClatchy. They need to agree to a fair contract now.

Last week we asked the FCC to delay action on the proposed acquisition of TEGNA by two hedge funds. We also called on TEGNA’s Board of Directors to postpone a vote on the deal, which is currently set for May 17.

Along with Common Cause and Public Knowledge, we filed a motion Thursday asking the agency to require Apollo Global Management and Standard General to provide additional information about their planned takeover. The additional information is necessary “for the Commission and the public to meaningfully assess whether the proposed transactions are in the public interest,” we said, citing the complex nature of the proposed transaction, the potential for price increases for consumers, and the likelihood of additional newsroom layoffs.

It’s time to stop the takeover of America’s newsrooms by private equity! The financialization of the news is destroying our civic life and our readers’ ability to participate in their democracy.

Legislative action to support our industry is heating up. We are reminding legislators and publishers that any new money must support jobs, be transparent and curtail Wall Street hijinks. In March 2021 I testified to Congress that the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act needs improvement to get our support. The legislation would provide a 10-year exemption from antitrust laws, allowing publishers to collectively negotiate for revenue from Google and Facebook.

I wrote in February that the legislation must support jobs. And I’ve heard recently that media CEOs are uncomfortable with letting the public know how much money they’re getting and the scope of potential deals. Our industry insists on transparency. If we’re going to support changing federal law to get billions of dollars a year, we — and our readers — have a right to know how much money companies are getting and how they’re spending it.

Are you going to the Labor Notes in June? The conference runs from June 17-19 near the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Many Guild members from across North America will be there, exchanging ideas and getting acquainted. Please let us know if you plan to attend.

Some great training sessions are coming up! Educational programs scheduled through June are listed on our calendar. Here are the workshops set for May:
Steward Training Module 4 – A Problem Solver – 6-8 pm ET, Tues, May 17
Register here. (You can sign up for this and upcoming modules even if you missed the previous ones.)
Grievance Handling: Best and Worst Practices – 6:30-8 pm ET, Thurs, May 19
Register here.
Stewards Training: Defending our Rights – 6-8 pm ET, Tues, May 24
Register here.
Assembling Your Dream Team – 9-10 am ET, Thurs, May 26
Register here.
Steward Training Module 5 – A Union Representative – 6-8 pm ET, Tues, May 31
Register here. (You can sign up for this and upcoming modules even if you missed the previous ones.)

Guild members were in the news last week — here’s a roundup of stories about the battles we’re waging.

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, NewsGuild-CWA

Photo at top: Members of The Morning Call Guild walk from their now-closed office to a rally in downtown Allentown. Photo by Richard Kintzel.