The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas are just two of the latest newsrooms in favor of forming a union, following the footsteps as other unionized newsrooms like the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald.
In Dallas, a group of about 20 employees— including multiplatform editor and unit chair for the union Leah Waters—led the charge to organize the union effort. They were successful. In October 2020, the Morning News and their sister publication Al Día Dallas voted to form a union. Out of more than 100 people that voted 84 voted in favor of the union.
The vote makes the Morning News the first major newspaper newsroom in the state to unionize in the modern era. (The San Antonio Light had formed a union, but the publication closed in 1993.) The Dallas News Guild, a unit of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, covers more than 125 journalists across all newsroom departments.
Shortly after the Morning News newsroom announced their vote, news came that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was also forming a union. Kayley Johnson, breaking news and crime reporter and co-chair of communications for the union, told E&P that unionizing had been on the employees’ mind for some time. However, when the newsroom learned its parent company, McClatchy, was filing for bankruptcy in February, people became more encouraged to move forward.
Johnson shared that 83 percent of non-management employees signed union authorization cards. With an overwhelming majority of the staff supporting the move, the union sought voluntary recognition and management agreed to it in November, waving the need for a vote.
The Fort Worth NewsGuild will be a unit of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America. Thirty-two people are eligible to become members of the union. Three positions are being contested by McClatchy. The company also recently proposed two additional positions they want to be eligible for union membership.
At press time, both unions had confirmed a unit council and bargaining committee and were in the process of finalizing their demands. Waters shared that a few of the Morning News’ priorities included creating a workforce reduction process, pay equity, severance and subcontracting. Some of the Star-Telegram’s priorities are mandatory yearly raises, mandatory starting salaries, paid paternity and maternity leave, and layoff alternatives.
“We (formed a union) to help stabilize a decline of our industry, one where workers are sacrificed for profit,” Waters said. “We have to find a way to keep our journalists employed and figure out how to monetize information and our content and keep us afloat. We can do both, but we can’t do both unless we have workers at the table making decisions and management.”
This statement also reflects the meaning behind the union’s motto, “Preserving the Rock of Truth,” which Waters explained symbolizes that the work the union does is to preserve local journalism.
Echoing Waters’ sentiments, Johnson said, “Our job is to serve our community and when newsrooms across the county are losing employees and positions, it makes it very difficult for us to do that effectively. The logical next step is to make sure that each newsroom, like ours, has a collective voice.”