Sarasota Herald-Tribune Latest Florida Newspaper to Unionize

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By Tyrone Richardson

Sept. 16 — Journalists at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune chose the NewsGuild-CWA as their collective bargaining representative by a 22-16 vote Sept. 15, the union announced that day.

The Herald-Tribune is the second Florida newspaper to unionize in recent months.

The election follows the NewsGuild filing an unfair labor practice charge Sept. 9 against management of the newspaper, alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

Official National Labor Relations Board election results were not available Sept. 16. The bargaining unit represents reporters, photographers, copy editors and others at the Sarasota paper, the union has said.

The election win also comes after recent “layoffs and other downsizing” at the newspaper, which has a daily circulation of 73,700 and a Sunday circulation of 94,800, according to the NewsGuild.

The NewsGuild has said the campaign also aims to address stagnant wages, adding that some journalists at the Saraosta newspaper have not had a raise in eight years.

The “mission statement” by supporters of the unionizing effort said the staffers seek a means to keep the publication successful, respectable and sustainable.

The NewsGuild July 17 won an NLRB election to represent about 30 editorial staffers at the Ledger newspaper in Lakeland, Fla. The union then touted the Ledger as the “only paper in Florida, and the first in modern memory, to have a unionized newsroom.”

The Ledger and Herald-Tribune are both owned by Pittsford, N.Y.-based Gatehouse Media, which is part of New Media Investment Group.

Organizing Faced Resistance

The NewsGuild’s organizing drive at the Sarasota newspaper faced some resistance. Newspaper Publisher Patrick Dorsey told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 22 that he was “disappointed some of our newsroom employees decided to go down this road.”

Dorsey did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment Sept. 16.

The NewsGuild’s statement said the NLRB election win came amid “a bitter anti-union campaign waged by GateHouse” through meetings with staff members, editors and the publisher.

The ULP filed by the NewsGuild Sept. 9 alleged that management threatened and intimidated workers seeking to organize, according to the document filed with the NLRB.

Organizing More GateHouse Newspapers?

NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 22 that the union could organize more newspapers in Florida, adding that the union has a history representing journalists at other GateHouse properties in the country. That includes journalists at GateHouse-owned newspapers including the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Worchester, Mass.

GateHouse owns about 125 daily newspapers across the country, including nine in Florida, according to its website.

There’s also been discussions about unionizing journalists at the GateHouse-owned Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch reporter Mark Ferenchik told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 16.

Ferenchik said efforts are in the early stages, as the staffers discuss options with regards to unionizing one of the largest newspapers in the GateHouse chain. The newspaper has a daily circulation of 127,894, and a Sunday circulation of 221,547, according to its website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the ULP charge is available at http://src.bna.com/iFs.

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