By CARL GREEN
Chicago, IL – Staff at the Southern Illinoisan, who voted in recent weeks to join the United Media Guild, join a growing chorus of journalists and newspaper employees organizing to protect their jobs and the quality of local journalism, including staff at the notoriously anti-union Chicago Tribune.
Eight-five percent of eligible Tribune workers signed cards to form a bargaining unit, the Chicago Tribune Guild, and it was recognized – reluctantly in the face of federal regulatory action – by Tronc, the corporation that owns the Tribune and several affiliated papers.
“Our attorneys and partners at the News Guild-Communications Workers of America tell us that in decades of organizing, they have never seen a newsroom earn voluntary recognition from a company of this size and with such a long history of anti-union bias,” the new union said in a press release.
Members include reporters, editors, designers, photographers, columnists and more, totaling about 280.
The Guild will be split into three units:
• Workers at the Tribune and its RedEye magazine,
• Staff at affiliated newspapers the Daily Southtown, Elgin Courier-News, Naperville Sun, Aurora Beacon-News and Spanish-language Hoy,
• Staff at Design and Production Studio, which serves the newspapers.
“We agreed that in the face of pernicious corporate influence on our industry, we need a better way to advocate for our work, protect the future of our and the next generation’s, journalism careers and strengthen our coverage of Chicago and its surrounding communities,” the union said.
FOR BETTER JOURNALISM
Chicago organizer Charles Johnson, a Tribune editor, said it’s a matter of good journalism.
“It’s long past time that the journalists at the Tribune and its community publications have a say in how our newspaper operates,” he told National Public Radio. “We have been badly mistreated by a series of corporate owners, Tronc only being the most recent, and we’ve decided to take some control over the future of our journalism in the city of Chicago.”
The union said issues include non-competitive pay, fairness to women and journalists of color, and the company’s commitment to quality journalism.
Differences remain over who will be included in the bargaining unit.
“We maintain our position that union protections should extend to the majority of our source editors and editorial board members. Tronc currently disagrees,” the union said.
Tronc also owns the Los Angeles Times. Staff members there voted overwhelmingly to unionize in January, defeating anti-union campaign by management. Tronc later agreed to sell the Times.
Tronc almost took over Chicago’s other major daily, the Sun-Times, but was rejected last summer in favor of a coalition led by former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath that includes the Chicago Federation of Labor and several individual unions. Staff at the Sun-Times are represented by the Chicago News Guild.