Florida Times-Union newsroom staff takes steps to form union

Mission statement signed by employees describes a newsroom and local management team faced with stagnant wages, uncertainty and continued staff cuts.

  • By
  • | 2:17 p.m. June 19, 2018
The Florida Times-Union offices at 1 Riverside Ave.
The Florida Times-Union offices at 1 Riverside Ave.
  • News
  • Share

The newsroom staff at The Florida Times-Union announced Tuesday its intent to form a union with NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America.

Times-Union journalists cited an inability to uphold the 154-year-old publication’s mission and to ensure that its journalists have a formal voice when dealing with its corporate owners, GateHouse Media.

Florida Times-Union reporter Andrew Pantazi
Florida Times-Union reporter Andrew Pantazi

If approved a majority vote of the newsroom staff, the Times-Union would become the third Florida publication owned by GateHouse to unionize since 2016.

The Times-Union news staff expressed interest to be represented by NewsGuild-CWA and filed signed cards at the Tampa regional office of the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, NewsGuild said in a news release.

Times-Union reporter Andrew Pantazi said Tuesday that 73 percent of the newsroom turned in cards to the NLRB.

Pantazi said union membership is limited to nonmanagement journalists, photographers, copy editors and desk editors.

“Under labor law, it will not include any management who can hire or fire,” he said.

The logo for the Times-Union guild.
The logo for the Times-Union guild.

The move will initiate an NLRB-monitored ballot by the 35-40 Times-Union news staff “in the next 20-40 days.” If approved, the new Florida Times-Union Guild then would begin negotiating a labor contract with GateHouse.

GateHouse purchased the Times-Union from Morris Communications in 2017 along with other publications. It is a division of New York-based New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded company.

A mission statement signed by six newsroom employees outlined their desire to unionize.

The six are Justin Barney, Beth Reese Cravey, David Crumpler, Tessa Duvall, Pantazi and Steve Patterson.

“It is the men and women of the newsroom who make this newspaper so special, yet our current and past owners have actively harmed the newsroom. Our objective is to preserve a level of dignity for those who work to produce a newspaper that has value,” the statement reads in part.  

The mission statement describes a newsroom and local management team faced with stagnant wages, uncertainty and continued staff cuts.

Since acquiring the Times-Union, GateHouse has eliminated at least 10 newsroom positions and ceased printing the paper in Jacksonville. It also plans to move from its office at 1 Riverside Ave. to a Downtown location to be determined.

“A union contract will ensure that the reporters, photographers, editors and support staff of The Times-Union have a say in the future of our newspaper. A union contract will also force the paper’s owner, GateHouse Media, to deal directly with its employees,” the statement reads.

“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.”

According to the release, the paper’s daily circulation is 44,750 and 68,600 on Sunday. The release says Jacksonville.com receives 380,000 daily page views.

The NewsGuild-CWA represents 25,000 journalists and other media workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico including at The New York Times and The Washington Post.

It has successfully helped organize unions at the Lakeland Ledger and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, also GateHouse publications.