Idaho Statesman journalists announce union organizing campaign

The journalists of the Idaho Statesman announced plans Monday to unionize as the Idaho News Guild.

All of the Statesman’s eligible newsroom employees signed onto a mission statement signaling our intent to form a union. Organizers for the union presented that mission statement to Rusty Dodge, the Statesman’s publisher, and asked for voluntary recognition of the union from the McClatchy Co., the Statesman’s parent company.

If McClatchy does not voluntarily recognize the union, organizers are prepared to send cards to the National Labor Relations Board. In that case, the NLRB will hold a union election for eligible Idaho Statesman employees. That vote would take place in the next several weeks.

The Idaho News Guild will be represented by The NewsGuild, a sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). CWA has 700,000 members across the U.S. and Canada.

The union will be made up of 16 journalists, including news and sports reporters, a photographer, columnist and news clerk.

Workers at the Idaho Statesman are part of a wave in recent union organizing. The NewsGuild has organized newsrooms across the country, adding nearly 3,000 journalists to its ranks in the past two years. The NewsGuild already represents approximately 150 McClatchy employees at six publications, including the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee and the Lexington Herald-Leader. 

The Statesman’s journalists are forming a union with the goal to preserve Idaho news, ensure their ability to tell the community’s stories and give staff a seat at the table.

In recent years, corporate decisions have left the Statesman’s journalists with more responsibilities and fewer resources. Rampant turnover, pay disparities and rising healthcare costs have destabilized the newsroom. The staff has repeatedly faced layoffs, unpaid furloughs and consolidation. The newsroom today is about one-third the size it was in 2011 — and about half the size it was just three years ago.

The union campaign follows McClatchy’s filing of bankruptcy in February. The company’s largest creditor, a New Jersey-based hedge fund called Chatham Asset Management, will become its new owner. NewsGuild-CWA is one of seven members on McClatchy’s bankruptcy creditors committee.

“No one can predict the future,” said Michael Lycklama, a sports writer who has worked at the Statesman since 2014. “But one thing is certain. Without a strong union representing our newsroom, the Idaho Statesman will be weaker and less able to serve our community the news it deserves.”

The newsroom today is about one-third the size it was in 2011 — and about half the size it was just three years ago.

The Statesman’s union will advocate for a more stable newsroom — one that fosters professional and personal development. Journalists are pushing for pay equity, improved healthcare benefits and compensation that rewards experience. We know that our editors and managers want this for us, too.

“The journalists here at the Idaho Statesman are proud of our work, but we’ve long been demoralized by a series of unpaid furloughs, layoffs, stagnant pay and worsening benefits,” said reporter John Sowell, who has worked at the Statesman since 2013. “Getting summoned to the editor’s office or to an unscheduled staff meeting makes me wonder whether I’m getting laid off.”

Reporter Ruth Brown has been at the Statesman for three years and supports the Idaho News Guild.

“Our newsroom works every day to deliver news that is vital to our community, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Brown said. “Forming a union is the best way to strengthen our newsroom by giving our journalists a voice.”

Reporters are available for interviews by emailing idahonewsguild@gmail.com.

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