Home>Highlight>The polls are open for Gannett journalists bid to unionize

The (Bergen) Record moved out of their Hackensack office building in 2009, a year after the massive layoffs of reporters. The building was later demolished. (Photo: Facebook.)

The polls are open for Gannett journalists bid to unionize

Newspapers have refused to cover their own employees attempt to unionize

By David Wildstein, April 02 2021 9:02 pm

Voting opened today for journalists and staffers at three Gannett-owned North Jersey newspapers who are attempting to unionize.

More than 90% of 82 eligible editorial staffers at The (Bergen) Record, the Daily Record and the New Jersey Herald signed a form to form a union affiliated with the NewsGuild of New York on February 10, but Gannett refused to accept their bid for voluntary recognition.

In March, two U.S. Senators and three members of the House of Representatives pushed Gannett to stop interfering with the right of reporters to unionize.

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) accused Gannett of holding anti-union captive audience meetings with their employees.

A union spokesperson confirmed to the New Jersey Globe that Gannett management is holding those meetings in a bid to stop employees from forming a union.

None of the Gannett newspapers, including the other seven dailies they own across the state, have reported a bid by their employees to unionize.

The voting ends on April 23 and ballots will be counted during the last week in April.

No request has been made for the other seven New Jersey dailies owned by Gannett.

In a mission statement, the employees said they want protections from unjust terminations “especially as Gannett and other corporate hedge funds in the media continue to slash newsroom staff and put stakeholder profit over the workers they should protect.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic last winter, Gannett announced a series of layoffs and furloughs.

Publicly and privately, reporters have been complaining about the lack of direction Gannett has taken in recent years.

Another Gannett-owned paper, The Asbury Park Press, took a beating last month after a journalist added a misogynistic, anti-Semitic caption to a photograph of an Orthodox Jewish nurse preparing to administer a COVID-19 vaccination that called her “a fucking hot nurse, a total JAP.”

The employee, Gustavo Martinez Contreras, has apologized, but the incident could take a permanent toll on daily newspapers in New Jersey.

The Monmouth County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution denouncing the newspaper and voted to pull legal advertising, a major source of revenue.

As a result, there is a renewed interest in ending the decades-old taxpayer subsidy for print newspapers.

“The legal advertising law is outdated with web sites reach more people than newspapers,” Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said in March.  “A change in the law forcing government advertising is needed.”

In 2016, then-Gov. Chris Christie pushed for legislation to end the decades-old practice of requiring government to publish legal notices in print newspapers.

The New Jersey Press Association – and some editorial page editors – said the move would be the death knell of print media.   Christie and legislators dropped their proposal, and since then, newspapers like The (Bergen) Record and the Star-Ledger have seen their paid print circulation drop by over 70%.

The NewsGuild of New York is affiliated with the Communications Workers of American Local 31003.

More than 4,000 new members have joined the NewsGuild since 2018, according to the Record Guild.

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