Florida Times-Union newsroom unionizes, third Florida GateHouse property to do so

Florida-Times-Union-building gatehouse

Staff, including reporters, photographers, copy editors and desk editors at the Florida Times-Union, voted Thursday to unionize the newsroom, under the NewsGuild-CWA.

The next move: Staff will begin negotiating a contract with GateHouse Media.

Two other GateHouse shops at the Lakeland Ledger and Sarasota Herald-Tribune have already organized.

Longtime reporter Steve Patterson noted previously that the newsroom has “lost co-workers in recent years.”

“Our staff wants some stability” Patterson added. “A union can’t solve all our problems, but it can be an advocate for us when we really need it.”

Wages have also been a concern.

Previous ownership of Morris Communications cut pay 10 percent in 2009. And wages haven’t fully recovered since, despite repeated cuts of staff and attempts to install efficiencies, including off-site printing and design.

Beth Reese Cravey, a T-U writer since 1987, has “yet to hit $40,000 a year in salary,” she said previously.

“Other reporters have come and gone at starting salaries higher than mine,” Cravey said. “I cover nonprofits, among other things, and I often qualify for the income-based programs I write about. That’s because I have never had a voice with enough strength behind it to be heard.”

“I believe forming a union will give us that voice,” she added. “But it’s not just about money. It’s about respect and being valued.”

Staff feels a particular urgency now. The GateHouse purchase, per a mission statement released by the union earlier in the process, “brought more uncertainty perhaps than any other time in the newspaper’s 154-year history.”

The newsroom was once 100 workers strong, as recently as five years ago. Now the staff is 40, including ten layoffs in the GateHouse era.

The newsroom staff shrank from more than 100 to fewer than 40 in the past five years, including the layoff of 10 newsroom workers in January.

A mission statement from reporters asserts that “current and past owners have actively harmed the newsroom” with cuts.

“We fear that GateHouse’s short-term strategies will lead to more and more cuts in the future. As of today, there are fewer than 40 full-time employees working across the Times-Union newsroom in metro, opinion, life, sports, photo and the copy desk – a third of the staff we had just five years ago. Once-filled desks now sit empty,” the mission statement adds.

“For too long, under Morris and under GateHouse, we have come to work waiting for a shoe to drop, waiting to be called into an office, waiting to learn of layoffs. We have had no say in the future of our own newspaper, and the disconnect between corporate and the newsroom is vast. We believe the success of The Florida Times-Union depends on its editorial staff. We must be a part of GateHouse’s decision-making processes to ensure we are not overlooked,” the mission statement continues.

Fair wages, affordable health insurance, and workers’ rights are among the concerns enumerated ahead of the vote.

And despite an anti-union effort from ownership, the staff moved ahead.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


3 comments

  • Tim Curtis

    June 19, 2018 at 11:38 am

    they should start their own paper and newsroom if they think its so easy. i don’t the “corporate culture” any more than they apparently do but it is a “business.” Having the union “enforce” higher wages and other costly benefits will only hasten the final result which will be the closure and loss of 100% of the jobs that used to exist. Unless the “union” is bringing some other way to increase revenue (and BTW – the public-at-large doesn’t trust or believe most of the media) then adding the union adds nothing to the equation.

    • Tom Cullen

      June 19, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Where did they say it was “so easy”? I don’t know the particulars of the Times Union situation but Unions have been responsible partners (concerned about the success of the company) in many industries, particularly in Europe. Rights of workers in the US have been consistently beaten down over the last 40 years with the government siding with corporate interests. Do we want to go back to the Gilded Age where workers had no rights? That is where we have been headed. Again don’t know TU situation but corporate profits are up, wealth of the top 1% keeps growing . Pretty hard to live on $40,000 a year with minimal health benefits.

  • Frankie M.

    July 19, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Dang poor Gatehouse must be hemmorraging $$. I feel so sorry for their corporate board. They must feel like Chevy Chase in Xmas vacation when he got that jelly of the month club membership instead of that phat bonus.

Comments are closed.


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