Gannett confiscated the work phone of a pro-union Arizona Republic reporter

A human resources representative from Gannett, the parent company of the Arizona Republicconfiscated the work phone of a reporter involved in a campaign to unionize the Phoenix newsroom, the reporter posted on Facebook.

Rebekah Sanders, who covers scams and bad business practices, claimed a representative for Gannett had “questioned” her about her “union activity”. Afterwards, Sanders said, the rep confiscated her work phone.

“I asked how I was going to conduct interviews the rest of the day. She said, ‘You won’t. I asked when I could get it back,” Sanders wrote in a public Facebook post. “She said she would let me know. My work cell has all my contacts and is an integral part of my work.”

At least another Republic staff member was called in for an HR meeting, according to employees involved in the organizing drive.

Sanders said Phoenix New Times that Gannett’s rep told her the confiscation of the phone was part of a “personal investigation” into an allegation that she was involved in the “surveillance” of colleagues.

She denied participating in “surveillance” and pointed out that federal law guarantees the right of workers to speak out about workplace issues and to organize unions.

“For 12 years, I’ve built a career on my personal integrity and my commitment to reporting the truth and caring for my community,” Sanders said. “I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”

She added that she had never been disciplined during her career at Republic.

Gannett could not be reached for comment.

Gannett’s extraordinary decision to confiscate work phones and initiate human resources investigations represented an escalation in the company’s attempts to push back the Republic campaign to organize staff, which began in January after a series of dismissals.

Last week, Republic Editor-in-chief Greg Burton sent out a newsroom-wide email vaguely accusing pro-union employees of “policing” their colleagues. Burton’s email compared the organizers to “crackpots and criminals,” alluding to unsavory Arizonans such as mother-killing state senate candidate Bobby Wilson and Sue Black, the former director of Arizona Parks who oversaw the bulldozing of native antiquities sites.

“These are the guys watching the reporters,” Burton wrote. “Journalists don’t monitor other journalists.”

Burton also wrote that staff members who engaged in alleged “surveillance” would have their “conduct” dealt with “through disciplinary channels”.

Two senior employees – reporters Craig Harris and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez – alleged on Friday that they were being “monitored” by union supporters.

“They used an app to document via SMS the real-time movements of me and my colleagues who had reservations about the union effort,” Harris wrote on Twitter. He said he had seen the cats in question.

“When those advocating for me to join their organizing effort wanted to talk to me, I met them. After they said I had my doubts about it, they started monitoring and recording my movements – as well as my expressions. facial expressions during meetings”, tweeted Wingett Sanchez. “It’s surveillance and it’s wrong.”

Organizers, however, said the accusations were an overreaction to regular union activity. The alleged “surveillance”, organizers said, centered on a text message sent via Signal, an encrypted messaging app frequently used by investigative journalists to discuss sensitive topics.

Organizers used the chat to discuss regular union activities. Some of the pro-union reporters noted in the chat that employees skeptical of the effort, including Harris, invited reporters into the newsroom to speak outside the office.

“When Gannett forces everyone to attend mandatory meetings about all the reasons why a union is a terrible idea and employees are suddenly taken to the coffee shop and asked how they feel about their jobs, it’s important to check with your colleagues,” Maria said. Pollette, a Republic political journalist involved in the organizing campaign.

Harris and the organizers refused to show the cats to new times.

Federal labor laws prohibit employers from “spying” on union activities.