Who is the Washington State NewsGuild?
In short, it’s us: the award-winning reporters, visual journalists, columnists and more who have brought the most critical stories of 2020 to life under extraordinary circumstances and challenging working conditions. We believe it’s time for us to have a seat at the table to ensure newsroom employees will receive adequate pay and workplace protections for generations to come.
The Washington State NewsGuild will be the bargaining unit of about 40 newsroom employees at four papers across the state: The News-Tribune, Olympian, Bellingham Herald and Tri-City Herald. These newsrooms combined serve communities along the Interstate 5 corridor and in eastern Washington comprising more than a fifth of Washington’s population.
What will unionizing get you that you don’t have now?
Being organized is how you gain a voice at the table. One of the most important changes that occurs when workers organize is that an employer cannot make unilateral changes to your job. The employer must bargain with the union over potential changes. That’s particularly critical at a company like McClatchy, whose hedge fund owners aren’t local and don’t know the unique needs of our newsrooms.
Who can join the union?
All newsroom staff, whether salaried or hourly, part-time or full-time. Federal law prohibits supervisors, employees who handle confidential information and independent contractors from joining unions.
What are you looking to get?
We will democratically decide what issues are most important to our workers. A bargaining committee made up of employees from all four newsrooms will meet with the company to negotiate a contract that represents the needs of all workers.
McClatchy must bargain with us over issues of compensation, vacation and sick time. We can also advance proposals around guaranteed overtime pay, working hours, progressive discipline, just cause firing, affordable health insurance, improved diversity in hiring practices, newsroom safety, fair severance packages for laid-off employees and more.
Can you be punished for supporting the union?
No. Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against or otherwise coercing employees during the exercise of their right to organize a union. This includes surveillance, questioning, intimidation or otherwise attempting to hinder organizing efforts. Federal law also protects members who choose to take collective action to demonstrate their support.
What about dues?
Union dues only begin after we ratify our first collective bargaining agreement. The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild’s dues are 1.5 percent of base pay.
Dues go toward maintaining our union and enforcing our contract. NewsGuild attorneys and professional staff will help us to establish our own democratic organization, assist us at the bargaining process and support us beyond the bargaining table.
What happens next?
Things could go one of two ways: The company could voluntarily recognize us, which means they’ve recognized the overwhelming support of our members in joining the NewsGuild. McClatchy this year has already voluntarily recognized unions at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas and the Island Packet in South Carolina. We are optimistic the company will do the same here.
Alternatively, McClatchy could force us to a National Labor Relations Board election. We are confident we would win the election with overwhelming support.
The McClatchy Company recently finalized its sale to Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey-based hedge fund. The sale came six months after McClatchy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following more than a decade of layoffs. The transaction, valued at $312 million, means McClatchy has emerged as a private company.
We’re concerned about the hedge fund ownership model that values profit over local news that serves our readers. It is a model that is bad for communities and bad for journalism. When Chatham took over Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper chain, 1,600 employees were subsequently laid off and more than 30 papers were soon shut down.
When communities lose their newspapers, they are at risk of becoming a “news desert” with no reliable source for local news. In addition to losing the reporting that empowers them to make informed decisions about their lives, the loss of local newspapers leaves communities vulnerable to “casual endemic corruption” when journalists are not there to serve as a watchdog on government.
What is the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild and NewsGuild-CWA?
The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild is a union representing workers at a number of different employers in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to these four newspapers, our members work at The Seattle Times, Crosscut, The Columbian in Vancouver, the Yakima Herald-Republic, Idaho Statesman, Skagit Valley Herald and Kitsap Sun, as well as the Aero Mechanic (a newspaper for members of the Machinists union at Boeing), and Trade Printery, a union print shop in Seattle. Each workplace constitutes a separate “bargaining unit,” and has its own contract.
The PNW Newspaper Guild is part of a larger, international organization — The NewsGuild — which in turn is a unit of our parent union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The CWA represents more than 700,000 workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.