NORTH BERGEN, NJ – With rounds and rounds of layoffs under their belts, the Gannett Company one of New Jersey’s largest newspaper publishing corporations is trying to stop their remaining employees from unionizing.
While unionizing won’t stop future layoffs by the media giant that has been in decline for the past two decades, it will allow the remaining workers, including reporters, photographers, press workers and others to collectively bargain for their workplace rights and benefits.
Gannett owns 100 newspapers including eight in New Jersey alone.
“As you know, strong, independent local journalism is vital to any healthy democracy in order to ensure an informed public and to hold those in power, including ourselves, accountable to the people they serve,” said a letter written by prominent New Jersey lawmakers, addressed to Gannett CEO Michael Reed. “Journalists make enormous sacrifices and often risk their personal health and safety in a demanding and frequently thankless job to serve their communities. Journalists deserve respect and dignity in the workplace, and have the right under federal law to unionize, should they freely choose that path.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker; and Congressmembers Bill Pascrell, Jr., Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski and Josh Gottheimer.
” We write today to express our disappointment that Gannett has refused to voluntarily recognize the supermajority of staff, including reporters, photographers, and producers at the Record and NorthJersey.com, Daily Record and NJ Herald who have formed the Record Guild with the NewsGuild of New York, TNG-CWA Local 31003,” the letter read. “In addition, we are concerned to learn that Gannett has engaged in anti-union campaigning and procedural delay tactics designed to exert influence and poison the union election process. Such union-busting is anathema to democracy and has no place in New Jersey, where there is a proud and long history of unionized labor. We are further disappointed to learn that after the Record Guild filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), your leadership team at these papers began conducting anti-union captive audience meetings with employees.”
Gannett is claiming that each of its local newspapers are unique entities and not eligible for statewide unionization, despite each newspaper being owned and operated by the parent company, often collaborating together locally and with the company’s flagship newspaper, USA Today.
“Furthermore, we are surprised that Gannett now claims that the three papers are separate news organizations and therefore an inappropriate unit for collective bargaining,” the legislators said. “This is a clear attempt to discourage workers from exercising their statutory rights to form a union. Moreover, such actions to break up the union membership will only serve to further weaken local news. We call on you to immediately instruct these papers’ leadership to refrain from further anti-union campaigning and to also abandon your claim that these newsrooms are an inappropriate unit for collective bargaining.”
The letter could be taken as a shot across the bow of Gannett which could eventually find itself in Senate and Congressional hearings regarding its workplace environment and union-busting practices.