By ROBERT FEDER
The Daily Herald
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 said in a message last week. “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.”
In an open letter signed by 46 employees (including four Pulitzer Prize winners), the organizers called on their colleagues 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.”
LOOTING THE COMPANY
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 National Public Radio. “The motivation 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.”
The Tribune group of newspapers that would be affected also includes the Aurora Beacon-News, Daily Southtown, Naperville Sun and Elgin Courier-News, plus the publications RedEye and Hoy.
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.