Idaho NewsGuild unanimously ratifies first union contract. Here’s what it won

Two years after unanimously voting to form a union, Idaho NewsGuild members unanimously ratified their first contract with the Idaho Statesman and its corporate owner, McClatchy.

The Idaho NewsGuild voted 19-0 in favor of a three-year contract. Highlights include:

  • Raises of 9.9% to 27.7% for full-time employees
  • Guaranteed yearly raises 
  • $1,000 signing bonuses
  • $48,000 minimum salary for all current full-time journalists 
  • Strong protections against outsourcing
  • Just-cause protections
  • Parental leave
  • Improved vacation benefits

The ratification comes after a two-year battle to secure a first contract. During that time, journalists at the Idaho Statesman lived through a corporate bankruptcy, a hedge fund takeover and a global pandemic that altered daily life. They also watched McClatchy deny us benefits awarded to non-union employees, wrongfully fire our editor and try to force page view quotas on our journalists in violation of federal labor law.

“McClatchy tried to divide us at every turn,” said Michael Lycklama, an Idaho Statesman sports writer, bargaining committee member and Guild steward. “But we didn’t just survive. We emerged stronger each time.”

No employee can be disciplined solely for failing to meet page view goals under terms of the contract. And employees do not have to use them in their yearly performance evaluation.

The Idaho NewsGuild also secured the return of a 40-hour work week, company-provided cell phones, bonuses for night work, an improved grievance procedure, and health and safety protections. Additionally, McClatchy can not use non-disclosure agreements to settle claims of discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual assault.

“Our goals as a newsroom went unchanged throughout this process – to ensure we keep delivering critical information to our readers, while being able to afford to do so,” said Kevin Fixler, an Idaho Statesman investigative reporter and bargaining committee member. “We have now met that objective, and we very much appreciate the community’s long-standing support.”

The Idaho NewsGuild is part of a wave of journalists across the country and inside McClatchy forming unions to protect their community’s news coverage. Fourteen McClatchy newsrooms have unionized in the past three years, leaving 18 of the chain’s 31 newsrooms – more than half – with union representation.

A full copy of the contract will be posted to our website soon.

A big victory for Idaho readers, Idaho NewsGuild. Pageview quotas are not allowed.

We have big news to share in our fight to #ProtectIdahoNews. 

McClatchy can not force mandatory pageview quotas on Idaho Statesman journalists, Region 27 of the NLRB recently determined. 

The NLRB found merit to our Unfair Labor Practice charge. We alleged McClatchy, the owner of the Idaho Statesman, violated our protections under federal labor law as a newly formed union by unilaterally changing our annual performance reviews.

McClatchy wanted to make pageviews and other digital metric quotas a mandatory part of those reviews. Our performance reviews are used to determine raises and, the company has suggested, our place in line for layoffs. This was brand new to the Idaho Statesman.

We protested internally for months, warning McClatchy this was a clear and simple violation of its legal duty to bargain with our union. The company refused to listen to its employees and plowed ahead. So we called in the big guns, which quickly ruled in our favor. 

So, what does this mean? It means Idaho Statesman journalists no longer have to fear losing their job for missing an arbitrary quota they had no role in setting. It means they don’t have to cede their news judgement to please Facebook’s and Google’s algorithms. 

But most importantly, it means readers will get their information from journalists chasing news, not clicks. 

Our most impactful stories — the ones that hold leaders accountable and help you lead a better life — are rarely the ones with the most pageviews. McClatchy’s plan would have led us to deemphasize or abandon those stories in favor of the day’s viral headline.

Valuable insights can be gleaned from measuring readership. We are not burying our heads in the sand and will use them when appropriate. But this illegal change threatened our credibility and our relationship with readers, who made it clear they wanted no part in this. 

We owe a heartfelt thank you to all the readers who stood with us in this fight. Your support has meant more than you can know. It can be scary to take on a national corporation. But you showed we are not alone in the fight to #ProtectIdahoNews.

Journalism can not be reduced to clicks. Tell McClatchy to live up to its promise.

Despite ours and our readers’ protests, the owner of the Idaho Statesman continues to ram through mandatory pageview quotas for its journalists.

Apparently it hasn’t received the message. So join us in collectively telling McClatchy this is wrong. You can send an email directly to McClatchy leadership by filling out the form below.

McClatchy promised for years it would not judge employees on pageviews. It said they were just goals to strive for. It said it was no big deal if you missed them.

But it has broken that promise.

In our most recent round of performance reviews, management inserted pageview quotas and other digital metrics into goals supposedly set by employees. There was no discussion, and no conversation about their weight.

Under past practice, success on these reviews dictates our salaries. Pageview quotas have never been a required part of these reviews.

And in current contract negotiations, McClatchy revealed plans to use annual reviews – which it says must include pageviews – to determine layoffs.

Employees have zero input on these arbitrary quotas. It’s unclear how McClatchy sets them. It can’t clearly explain how they help our bottom line. And they create perverse incentives for our coverage, incentives that defy everything McClatchy publicly claims to stand for.

McClatchy tried this at the Sacramento Bee. It relented after national blowback and does not require them.

So why require them here? Are Idaho journalists lesser than Sacramento ones? Do Idaho readers deserve less than those in California?

The Idaho NewsGuild has filed an Unfair Labor Practice against McClatchy and the Idaho Statesman over these quotas. These mandatory quotas are a violation of our status quo protections under federal labor law.

Let us be clear: We are not against measuring digital readership. It can be an effective tool to expand our audience and provide meaningful feedback.

But it can not capture the work and value of a journalist. Period.

Judging journalists by pageviews rewards controversy over clarity. It rewards quantity over quality. It rewards outrage over solutions.

It’s bad for the Idaho Statesman. It’s bad for our readers. It’s bad for Idaho.

Please join us in telling McClatchy to keep these mandatory quotas out of Idaho.

Thank you for your support. The Idaho NewsGuild is not done fighting.

One week after the inappropriate firing of our editor, Christina Lords, we resumed negotiating our first contract with McClatchy. We are eternally thankful for all of your support. But we will still need it in the coming fight. 

Last week, McClatchy finally agreed to hire four open reporter positions in our newsroom. While it’s no replacement for the unjust loss of an editor trusted by the community and our newsroom — especially during a pandemic — we know Boise needs more journalism, not less.

We’re still angry that the decisions of out-of-state executives took a champion of local news from our newsroom. But now we’re coming to the bargaining table with renewed resolve to fight to protect local news in Idaho.

We’re fighting to ensure our journalists have the equipment necessary to do our jobs safely. We’re fighting to ensure we have the resources to hold the powerful accountable and produce exemplary journalism that helps our community navigate the difficulties of the pandemic.

Mainly, we’re fighting for a fair contract that will allow us to retain talented journalists who know Idaho well — and who care about producing the quality journalism that Boise deserves. 

The Idaho NewsGuild is endlessly grateful to the Idahoans and journalists across the U.S. who bravely spoke out last week. You showed McClatchy that Idahoans care about quality local news. Interference that threatens the Idaho Statesman’s ability to provide that isn’t welcome.


The Idaho NewsGuild Bargaining Team

Idaho Statesman editor wrongfully fired. Tell McClatchy to reinstate her.

McClatchy fired Christina Lords, the Idaho Statesman’s top editor, Monday after she publicly advocated for more resources for the newsroom — a newsroom decimated under McClatchy leadership.

With the email form below, you can tell the Idaho Statesman’s corporate parent company that was wrong and that she must be reinstated. It will go to McClatchy’s CEO, its vice president of news and the Northwest regional editor.

The Idaho NewsGuild submitted the following letter to McClatchy leadership Monday afternoon, asking for Lords’ immediate reinstatement:

To Tony Hunter, McClatchy CEO; Kristin Roberts, Vice President of McClatchy News; and Stephanie Pedersen, Northwest Regional Editor:

The journalists of the Idaho NewsGuild are writing to formally protest the abrupt and inappropriate firing of editor Christina Lords.

Lords was fired Monday, Jan. 25, after publicly advocating for resources for her employees. In a Jan. 22 tweet, Lords described her frustration in being unable to secure access to Microsoft Excel for a new investigative journalist, while asking the community to subscribe to and support the Idaho Statesman.

Lords later deleted the tweet, but was terminated effective Monday. In a newsroom meeting, McClatchy executives refused to answer basic questions about Lords’ firing and the policies that informed the decision.

To fire an editor for advocating for resources and encouraging people to subscribe is a remarkably disappointing decision by McClatchy management. This is a devastating blow to the morale of a newsroom that is already chronically understaffed. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are struggling due to McClatchy’s refusal to fill open positions and provide necessary resources. How many more people is the Idaho Statesman willing to lose before McClatchy stops undermining our journalism?

Lords was a driving force behind several Statesman projects that received national acclaim, changed laws and won numerous awards. She has advocated for employees to pursue fellowships and investigative projects. She championed McClatchy’s push to grow subscribers, drive page views and increase revenue for the company. She is a fifth-generation Idahoan who is highly respected in our community.

This is unacceptable and has a chilling effect on McClatchy journalists who advocate for themselves, their newsrooms and their community. We call on the company to immediately reinstate Lords with full pay and benefits, that she receive a formal apology from McClatchy leadership and that the company review its social media and disciplinary policies. 


The Idaho NewsGuild

A unanimous vote for the Idaho News Guild

The journalists of the Idaho Statesman spoke with a unanimous voice Wednesday, voting 18-0 to to form a union. 

The Idaho News Guild represents all non-manager newsroom employees at the Idaho Statesman, including news and sports reporters, social media editors, a photographer, a columnist and clerks. The union will immediately begin to fight for fair wages, job security and improved benefits.

“We are fighting to preserve local news in Idaho,” union member Kate Talerico said. “We look forward to working with management toward a fair contract that ensures a strong future for the Statesman’s essential journalism.”

The election caps a two-month process to formalize the newsroom’s union. The Idaho News Guild first announced its intention to form a union on March 2 with unanimous support. The McClatchy Co., the Statesman’s parent company, refused to voluntarily recognize the union, creating the drawn-out process that saw two delays because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote was conducted via a mail ballot at the Denver regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. The victory authorized the Idaho News Guild as a unit of NewsGuild-CWA

For more information, visit

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

Our mission

We, the journalists of the Idaho Statesman, are coming together to form a union with the goal to preserve Idaho news, tell the stories of our communities and give our staff a seat at the table.

The Idaho Statesman is a vital institution. We’ve been serving our readers since before Idaho became a state, and we will continue to serve them as our state grows.

When Idaho troops deployed to Iraq, we were there. When wildfires erupted across the state, we were there. When Boise State became a national football powerhouse, we were there. We take enormous pride in our role as a connector and watchdog for our community.

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

To protect the Idaho Statesman and its mission, we must protect the journalists who shape it every day. We must ensure the reporters who cover our community can afford to make it their home.

We believe in a newsroom that fosters professional and personal development. We believe in a career that can support a family. We believe in a newsroom that values employees’ skills and their depth of knowledge. We believe in retaining talent and rewarding professional achievement.

A union is necessary to sustain a strong, vibrant Idaho Statesman for years to come. We are asking the Statesman’s parent company, McClatchy, to recognize the NewsGuild-CWA as our representative.

We have given a voice to the Treasure Valley community. We deserve a voice, too.

Nicole Blanchard
Ruth Brown
Ximena Bustillo
Ron Counts
Michael Deeds
Audrey Dutton
Nicole Foy
Gage Hanson
Hayley Harding
Michelle Jenkins
Michael Lycklama
Darin Oswald
Rachel Roberts
Cynthia Sewell
John Sowell
Kate Talerico