Arizona Republic reporters vote to organize and authorize the Guild

Journalists at The Arizona Republic voted Thursday to unionize the newsroom, ending weeks of lobbying on issues including job security, workplace flexibility, wages and benefits. social advantages.

If the results are certified uncontested, he will initiate a collective bargaining process in the Phoenix newsroom.

The 64-30 vote was held by secret ballot at The Republic’s downtown office in Phoenix, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB will take about a week to certify the election if neither party objects.

The vote took place against the backdrop of a proposed acquisition of Gannett by GateHouse Media, owned by New Media Investment Group, with shareholders due to vote on November 14. If shareholders of both companies approve, the deal could close by the end of the year.

Gannett owns The Arizona Republic, USA TODAY and more than 100 other daily newspapers, websites and other companies in the US and UK.

“We respect the rights of our employees and their decision, as we have said since beginning this effort,” said Arizona Republic editor Greg Burton. about our mission – meaningful and revealing journalism that makes our community a better and richer place to live.

The Arizona Republic Guild hailed the vote as a landmark decision to protect local journalism.

“We sent a powerful message to Gannett: we expect dignified severance pay, fair wages and a voice in decisions that affect our future,” said consumer journalist Rebekah Sanders, who joined the newspaper in 2008 and is a member of the organizing committee. .

The vote authorizes a new Arizona Republic Guild as a unit of the NewsGuild-CWA to enter into contract negotiations over wages, benefits and working conditions, a process that may take years to resolve. . The Los Angeles Times Guild voted to unionize in January 2018 and is still negotiating a contract with the company.

Phoenix labor organizers have expressed concern over layoffs and other cost cuts if the GateHouse merger takes effect. In a recent interview with the Boston Business Journal, New Media CEO Mike Reed said newsrooms would be primarily protected during the merger of business operations.

“I can’t give you a percentage, but I’d say the mid-’90s is a long way from newsrooms,” Reed told the Boston Business Journal. “A big selling point for both companies on this transaction is that it will better position them to preserve their journalism and newsrooms, as it opens up other areas to make cuts.”

The two sides have held meetings with newsroom workers over the past few weeks to discuss the pros and cons of forming a union.

Guild representatives called for a union yes to “protect local journalism” and secure a seat at the bargaining table. Management urged against voting, saying a union environment would stifle flexibility and fail to deliver the benefits organizers claim.

The vote for union representation is limited to The Arizona Republic newsroom, which produces content for The Republic, azcentral.com and Spanish-language publication La Voz.

Arizona is a right-to-work state, which means those who oppose the union can refuse to pay dues, offered by the Guild at 1.38% of salary per month. Even then, non-supervising newsroom employees will be obligated to accept Guild-negotiated wages and benefits, even if the terms of the contract negatively impact them.

Several other Gannett news sites have guilds, including Detroit Free Press, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, Indianapolis Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

About 100 Phoenix writers, editors, digital producers, visual journalists and other non-executive staff were eligible to vote in Thursday’s election.

The Guild made public its intention to unionize the newsroom when it announced last month that more than 70% of non-management employees had signed union authorization cards. Burton rejected a request for voluntary recognition from the Guild as the collective bargaining representative for non-supervising newsroom employees, triggering the election.

Elections are decided by majority vote of workers. Either party may file an objection within seven days of the vote count. The NLRB regional director then makes a decision, which can be appealed to the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.