Florida Times-Union Newsroom Staff Votes to Unionize, Join NewsGuild-CWA

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By a 2-to-1 margin, journalists at the Florida-Times Union voted Thursday to form a union, becoming only the third unionized newsroom staff in the Sunshine State.

The 18-9 vote by the staff of Florida's oldest newspaper means The NewsGuild-CWA will represent Times-Union's employees as they bargain their first labor contract with the paper's owner, GateHouse Media.

“This vote was about continuing strong local journalism by considering the needs and goals of the people who create it," said Steve Patterson, a Times-Union reporter since 1987 and member of the staff's union-organizing committee. "Today’s vote happened after a lot of discussion and debate in the newsroom. Not everyone agreed on the choice. We all agreed we want to keep the Times-Union healthy and indispensable to its community."

With a circulation of 44,750 daily, 68,600 on Sunday and daily page views of about 380,000 on Jacksonville.com, the Times-Union follows GateHouse's Lakeland Ledger and Sarasota Herald-Tribune, both of which unionized after successful NewsGuild organizing drives in 2016.

The Jacksonville paper's award-winning newsroom staff first announced its union-organizing campaign on June 19. Leaders of the effort said they wanted to form a union that ensures journalists have a formal voice in the workplace to preserve jobs and advocate for journalists' ability to serve the community amid financial pressures in the newspaper industry that threaten irreparable harm.

"This has always been about building up our newsroom and its people, and I am so proud that we are taking this step together," said Times-Union reporter Tessa Duvall, a staff member for three years and an organizing committee member. "We are going to build a legacy that will make this place we love better for those who come next."

Patterson added: “The Times-Union’s editors and publisher have long records of promoting quality journalism. It’s in the interests of both employees and managers to continue that, and we’ll keep that at the top of our list of goals as we pursue a contract.”

Stagnant and low wages for many employees have been a big concern for Times-Union employees under GateHouse and Morris Communications, which sold the Times-Union to GateHouse in 2017. Employees still haven't recovered from pay cuts of up to 10 percent under Morris in 2009.

A union contract, according to a mission statement drafted by leaders of the organizing drive, will ensure that newsroom staff members have a say in the paper's future and "force the paper's owner ... to deal directly with its employees."

Andrew Pantazi, a Times-Union reporter for more than five years and an organizing committee member, said: "We will continue to talk to all of our hard-working colleagues to ensure we speak with one voice as we fight for a fair and strong contract. Kirk Davis, CEO of GateHouse Media, has job protections built into his contract. It’s not too much to demand that we journalists have the same."

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