Seeking job security against reductions in force and greater diversity in the workplace, editorial staffers of three Gannett-owned North Jersey-based daily newspapers have unionized.
Employees of The (Bergen) Record, Daily Record and New Jersey Herald are seeking voluntary recognition of their union after almost 90% of eligible employees – a total of 66 — signed on with the NewsGuild of New York.
“The three papers represented by the members of our union have provided local news to northern New Jersey for more than 100 years,” said Bergen Record reporter Terrence McDonald. “In fewer than five years Gannett has turned each into a shadow of their former selves. We organized to bring more power to the writers, photographers and web producers who are dedicated to providing our communities with the journalism they deserve.”
If Gannett turns down the voluntary request, the employees can petition the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an election.
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.
“Under Gannett, The Record has shed hundreds of jobs and steered away from its signature local coverage,” said statehouse reporter Dustin Racioppi on Twitter. “We want some say in what happens at an institution we love and proudly work for.”
According to the Record Guild mission statement, the three newspapers have seen a 50% reduction of reporters and editorial staffers. They said layoffs effected a reporter who was 9 months pregnant, and a 30-year employee whose buyout offer came in a single email.
The also alleged that Gannett newsrooms have “lost an alarming number of reporters and editors of color.”
In 2019, GateHouse Media acquired Gannett for $12.06 a share. The deal was structured to include a massive debt that would require hundreds of millions in cuts to pay back a $1.2 billion loan that was part of the deal to keep them afloat.
That followed a hostile takeover bid by a hedge fund, Digital First Media, earlier that year.
“These workers are fighting to safeguard the legacy of local news in northern New Jersey and justly advocating for stronger, more diverse newsrooms that can continue to be a critical lifeline, celebrated storyteller, and most importantly, a necessary watchdog for our communities,” Susan DeCarava, President of The NewsGuild of New York. “We call on Gannett for swift recognition so that we can get to the table to ensure that the collective voice of these workers, and the interest of our readers, are heard, and respected.”
The (Bergen) Record editor, Dan Sforza, did not immediately respond to a 9:49 AM seeking comment.