September 15, 2016

Citing staff reductions and repeated cost-cutting, the staff of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune voted to unionize Thursday, becoming the second Florida newspaper to do so.

The vote was 22-16.

Elizabeth Johnson, an investigative reporter at the Herald-Tribune, lauded the vote in a statement, saying it will allow the newspaper’s staff to “have a voice and a place at the table.”

“We are ready to have a voice and a place at the table where decisions affecting our staff and our service to the community are made,” Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to exerting that voice through a fair contract.”

The Herald-Tribune is now represented by The NewsGuild-CWA, which also represents Florida’s other unionized paper, The Lakeland Ledger. Both newspapers are owned by GateHouse Media, which is moving to trim staff at its properties across the United States through buyouts. (Disclaimer: Poynter has a training partnership with GateHouse Media)

The papers will now begin the contract bargaining process, which is expected to take several months, according to the release.

Unionization leaders at the Herald-Tribune also reported Thursday an effort on the part of GateHouse management to quash the union vote through intimidation. As a result, the NewsGuild has filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board, according to the release.

The Herald-Tribune is generally well-regarded for its tradition of investigative journalism and shared a Pulitzer Prize with the Tampa Bay Times this year for investigative reporting.

Today’s vote is just the latest in a series of unionization efforts across the United States. In the last year, several news organizations — including Gawker Media, Guardian U.S., Al Jazeera America, Vice and The Huffington Post have moved to unionize, many citing long work hours and the unceasing labor expectations of an always-on news culture.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the complaint lodged by NewsGuild was related to “one-on-one and group meetings between employees and the paper’s publisher and editors.” In fact, the complaint was lodged in response to allegations of intimidation.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

More News

Back to News