Editorial employees of the Chicago Tribune have announced plans to seek union representation — a first in the 171-year history of the traditionally anti-union newspaper.
“Greetings,” they tweeted Wednesday. “We’re the journalists of the Chicago Tribune and its community publications, and we proudly announce the formation of the Chicago Tribune Guild. We’re unionizing to protect the future of the newspapers we love and bring readers the best journalism possible. #TribUnion”
In an open letter signed by 46 employees (including four Pulitzer Prize winners), the organizers called on their colleagues Wednesday to support the effort with the NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America.
“A series of corporate owners — tronc being only the most recent — has jeopardized our ability to do great work,” the letter read in part. “Regular raises, cost-of-living adjustments and job security are non-existent. The cost of our healthcare benefits has significantly increased. Our maternity and paternity policy is inadequate. . . . Our primary goal in forming a union is to give us, the Tribune’s journalists, a voice in setting the course for the publications we hold dear.”
As reported here, the effort moved into high gear last month when Tribune staffers met with union representatives in a lengthy session at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza River North. In recent months the newsroom has faced multiple rounds of layoffs and other cutbacks, with additional job losses expected.
“They have looted the company and the tronc executives have paid themselves outsized salaries,” Charlie J. Johnson, a Tribune homepage editor, told NPR’s David Folkenflik. “The motivation [for unionizing] was the idea that the newsroom would finally have a voice and say in how things operated. We wanted a microphone to speak to management and the public about how this place should operate.”
Earlier this year news staffers at the Los Angeles Times voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the News Guild-Communications Workers of America. Tronc subsequently announced the sale of the L.A. Times.
A tronc representative said a response would be forthcoming.
Here is the text of the employees’ letter:
In the past few weeks, we’ve talked to most of you about our hopes for the Chicago Tribune and its community publications. Those conversations have convinced us: It’s time to form a union. We’re hoping you’ll join us.
A wide range of the newsroom is represented in this effort. Our organizing committee includes veterans and newcomers, among them many prize-winners, all dedicated to providing our readers with the first-rate coverage of local, state and regional news they expect.
But a series of corporate owners — Tronc being only the most recent — has jeopardized our ability to do great work.
Regular raises, cost-of-living adjustments and job security are non-existent. The cost of our healthcare benefits has significantly increased. Our maternity and paternity policy is inadequate.
Development opportunities — the kind that allow us to achieve professional goals and to enrich our news coverage — are rare. We have lost many talented colleagues to higher-paying jobs that offer better protections and more possibilities for advancement.
And although we live in a racially and ethnically diverse city and state, diversity is not well-reflected in the newsroom. A more diverse staff will help guide coverage that fully reflects the lives of the many types of communities in and around Chicago. We can do better.
Our primary goal in forming a union is to give us, the Tribune’s journalists, a voice in setting the course for the publications we hold dear. This includes the Aurora Beacon-News, Daily Southtown, Naperville Sun, Elgin Courier-News, RedEye and Hoy.
In the coming days, we’ll ask you to join this effort by submitting signature cards signaling your support for representation by the NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America. The guild represents thousands of journalists and media workers at respected papers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and — as of this year — the Los Angeles Times.
This would be the first union for editorial employees in the Tribune’s 170-year history, and we know you may have questions. We did too. Please feel free to approach any of us. We would love to talk to you.
We believe the union is an investment — in our work, in ourselves, in our readers, in our city and state.
For the Chicago Tribune. For Chicago.
Manya Brachear Pashman
Charlie J. Johnson
Angie Leventis Lourgos
Jennifer Smith Richards
Stacy St. Clair
E. Jason Wambsgans