June 19, 2018

On Tuesday, NewsGuild-CWA announced that staff at the Florida Times-Union started a process that will lead to a vote to unionize.

If the drive is successful, it will become the third GateHouse newspaper in Florida to do so. The Lakeland Ledger and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune both unionized in 2016.

According to the press release, the staff is pushing to unionize for fair wages, a voice in the future of the newspaper and for workers’ rights. The Times-Union joins other legacy newspapers in the move.

This is from the organizing campaign’s mission statement:

Our union is under no illusion that revenues associated with the news business will magically improve, and that is precisely why we have decided to unite our voices. We fear that GateHouse’s short-term strategies will lead to more and more cuts in the future. As of today, there are fewer than 40 full-time employees working across the Times-Union newsroom in metro, opinion, life, sports, photo and the copy desk — a third of the staff we had just five years ago. Once-filled desks now sit empty.

There will be tough times ahead. A union won’t necessarily stop that. But a strong contract will help to protect the work of the men and women who report, edit, photograph and put together the stories of the newspaper. In this way, a strong contract will help to preserve good jobs and impactful journalism in Jacksonville.

Earlier this month, GateHouse named the Times-Union its newspaper of the year and named editor Mary Kelli Palka Editor of the Year. The newspaper of the year award, according to GateHouse, “recognizes newspapers that have a significant impact on the communities they cover, expertly engage with audiences and take coordinated steps to reach new readers.”

Palka spoke with Poynter at the beginning of the year after another round of layoffs and how she approached reshaping an ever-shrinking newsroom.

"We weren’t going to be the newspaper of record in the sense that if you don’t see it in the paper, it didn’t happen," she said. "We’re going to be the paper of record for the most important things in our community."

In December, Poynter’s Rick Edmonds reported, “the expanding GateHouse chain agreed to a 1 percent raise for their 18 Guild properties this September and another 1.7 percent in September 2019. Also, the employee-paid share of health benefits was frozen for 2018.”

"…I don't think the Guild's push for fairness and a voice has become obsolete," Edmonds wrote. "Maybe here, as in other nooks of the industry, there is reason for cautious optimism that traditional roles and goals can adapt to the times."

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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