Journalists from Pasadena Star-News and Other Newspapers Vote to Unionize – Pasadena Now
Journalists from 11 Southern California dailies, including Pasadena Star-News, owned by Alden Global Capital, known as Southern California News Group (SCNG), overwhelmingly voted to form a union on Friday. The final tally was 64-19.
The new union, called the SCNG Guild, represents 140 journalists and other editorial positions at Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Daily News, the edge of the river Press-Company, the long beach Press-Telegram, the Torrance Daily breeze, the San Bernardino Sun, the Daily Bulletin of the Inner Valley, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Whittier Daily News and the Daily facts about the Redlands.
According to Poynter.org, the hedge fund, which owns about 70 newspapers nationwide through its MediaNews group, is known to buy newspapers and then cut budgets and staff.
Last month, Alden bought Tribune Publishing for $ 633 million. In the weeks leading up to the deal, Tribune reporters pleaded for someone with solid pockets to buy the company instead, fearing major cuts once Alden took the reins. A hotelier reportedly nearly derailed the deal, but withdrew after his billionaire partner stepped down after examining one of the newspaper’s dire financial situations.
According to an article on the Chicago Tribune website, two days after the purchase was finalized, the hedge fund began offering buyouts to non-union newsroom workers.
Buyouts are usually the last option for an employee to voluntarily leave a company and receive severance pay, followed by the likely risk of being fired without compensation if they do not agree to the buyout.
“MediaNews Group and Alden Global Capital have cut our newsrooms to the bone,” the SCNG Guild wrote in a Feb. 24 statement explaining why they decided to unionize. “Layoffs and turnover have devastated our workforce. We face historic staff shortages and the exodus of journalists with decades of experience has emptied our newspapers. These cuts leave us less able to deliver the quality product we owe our readers. We want to avoid further losses while allowing our newspapers to thrive. We want to create newsrooms with diverse voices reflecting the communities we cover. “
The new union is a unit of Media Guild of the West, a local chapter of The NewsGuild-CWA, which represents hundreds of journalists and media workers in Southern California, Arizona and Texas, including Los Angeles Times, the Republic of Arizona and other papers.
“This is history, folks!” the union wrote on its Twitter account announcing the result of the vote. “The SCNG Guild will now negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions for all. Salaries have remained stagnant for most of the employees of these newspapers. Many have gone without a real pay rise for years, even as the cost of living in the Los Angeles area has risen. We have to fight !”
The union said it announced its intention to unionize in February, but that “management [at SCNG] refused to recognize us on purpose, then delayed the vote arguing that our unity should be split in two.
According to Poynter, SCNG “argued that certain positions – editors, graphic designers, page designers and social and digital media producers – should not be allowed to join the union. These positions consist of approximately 44 people. In response, the union launched a # 1Newsroom1Union campaign on social media, arguing that those in the contested positions are also journalists and should be allowed to unionize with their fellow reporters, photographers and clerks. Both sides appeared before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in March for a hearing, and the board ruled in favor of the union.
According to the SCNG Guild, this is the first time that many of these newspapers have voted to unionize. However, this is not the first attempt at union.
In the early 90s, the old Pasadena Weekly Editor and Pasadena now Editor-in-chief Kevin Uhrich was part of an organizing effort at Pasadena Star-News when he was a journalist there on the rhythm of the town hall. He said he was not happy with the management team put in place by the then new owner, Thomson Corp.
“I became upset to see my friends, mostly female journalists, being taken into the editorial office after work and being berated by these overpaid hackers, some to tears,” Uhrich said. “So I went to a top-secret union meeting, got involved and became one of the many union committee leaders among Thomson’s three newspapers: the Pasadena Star-News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Whittier Daily News. “
Uhrich ended up taking his case to the NLRB on 10 counts, including harassment, eavesdropping on employees and reading their internal emails on a system called Coyote. He won on all counts on behalf of all employees.
“No money was involved, mainly because I never took any time off,” he said. “I was totally in it, so there was no time wasted. And I did not get sick, as my fellow leaders have done one after another.
Uhrich said others had started to give up and he was soon one of only two people pushing for the union. The company was ordered to admit guilt and post notices of the decision in prominent places in all three newspapers, which it did.
“Sadly, they also did what we knew they would do and came back with something the union feared but many sick of the office drama had hoped for: buyouts.”
Uhrich explained that this union effort included all employees in every department, many of whom had reached retirement age and some had nothing to do with editorial staff. He strongly opposed this arrangement and lobbied the local Guild board to separate the editorial staff from the rest and act as a separate unit, but the union “never filed the required documents with boys in Silver Spring, Md., home of the Guild, and our approval rating from 70-30 changed overnight, ”he said.
“What it meant was that I was sunk,” he added. “Without a union, they could fire me, and I have no doubt that they were planning to do so as soon as possible. In addition, at this precise moment, the redemption deadline was approaching. I had a good deal on the line, so, by waiting until 4pm this Friday, the last hour of the last day, I took the buyout.
Uhrich added that no media reported on their organizing campaign or the NLRB victory, including the Pasadena Weekly. After leaving the Star-News, he continued with the San Gabriel Valley edition of Los Angeles Times. He also wrote short stories for the LA reader, the LA Weekly and the Pasadena Weekly. He was editor-in-chief of Pasadena Weekly from 1999, then owned by Times Community News, TCN, a division of Los Angeles Times, until 2020.
“I’m happy for [the new union], of course, ”Uhrich said. “Again, I can’t help but wonder how different things could have been now if we had won back then.”