More than 200 unionized journalists across 14 Gannett newsrooms staged a one-day strike Friday, the NewsGuild announced.
The journalists on strike represent a supermajority of their newsrooms, according to a Guild press release. Those newsrooms include The Arizona Republic, The Desert Sun in California,The Journal News in New York and The Record in New Jersey, among others. All of the participating units are in the midst of contract negotiations with Gannett, who the journalists say has offered insufficient wage proposals and refused to bargain in good faith.
In addition to delays in contract negotiations, the journalists are protesting recent cuts at Gannett that include mass layoffs and planned furloughs. In August, Gannett laid off 400 employees and left another 400 open positions unfilled. The company then announced in October that it would freeze hiring, suspend matching contributions to 401(k) accounts and impose mandatory unpaid leaves over the holidays.
Because of the cuts, Gannett’s headcount in the U.S. has fallen 6.5% in the last quarter. The company, which is the largest newspaper chain in the country, has roughly 12,300 employees. Dozens of Gannett papers now have skeleton staffs with just one or two reporters.
Susanne Cervenka, an investigative reporter at the Asbury Park Press who serves as the APP-MCJ Guild’s unit chair, said the strike is an attempt to show Gannett the impact of cutting staff.
“They seem to think that a newspaper will run without journalists,” Cervenka said. “Well, this is what it looks like when you have a day without journalists working.”
Gannett has also refused to pay its workers adequate wages, the NewsGuild says. Journalists have reported needing to work multiple jobs and relying on food banks and government assistance to make ends meet.
Insufficient wages is one of the reasons why Gannett newsrooms have been unionizing in droves in recent years. Since the August layoffs, journalists at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal and digital producers at Gannett’s Midwest newsrooms have gone public with union drives. The NewsGuild now represents roughly 1,500 workers across 50 Gannett newsrooms.
Workers at other unionized Gannett properties announced they would be holding lunch-time walkouts and other protests Friday in support of the striking journalists.
A Gannett spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement that the affected newsrooms will continue delivering news to readers.
“Our goal is to preserve journalism and serve our communities across the country. Despite the anticipated work stoppage in some of our markets, we will not cease delivering trusted news to our loyal readers. In addition, we continue to bargain in good faith to finalize contracts that provide equitable wages and benefits for our valued employees.”
The NewsGuild has been building up to this moment, holding a number of rallies and protests since the August layoffs announcement. Last month, the guild invited both union and nonunion Gannett workers to a virtual town hall and released a pay equity study covering six of its units.
The strike comes one day after Gannett released its third quarter results. For the second quarter in a row, the company lost $54 million, and CEO Mike Reed told analysts that he does not expect revenue to bounce back until 2024. Gannett is forecasting a total net loss of $60 million to $70 million this year.