Austin journalists go on one-day strike as part of national union push at Gannett papers

Three newspapers in Texas unionized in 2020, part of a nationwide trend.

By Sarah AschJune 6, 2023 12:01 pm,

Journalists at two dozen Gannett-owned newspapers went on strike Monday, demanding higher pay and better working conditions. It was a one-day walkout that included workers at the Austin American-Statesman.

Over the past few years, journalists across the country have voted to form unions in record numbers, and Texas newsrooms have been no exception. Employees at the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Statesman all announced union drives in 2020.

Nora Alexander, a Texas-based union representative with the Media Guild of the West, said the three newsrooms have been bargaining for their first contracts.

“Most recently, the Fort Worth News Guild was on strike for four weeks, and members secured their first contract in Texas. We won some important protections like a higher wage floor, general wage increases on a yearly basis, and just cause protection, meaning that our folks are no longer at-will,” Alexander said. “In Dallas, after 32 months of bargaining with the Dallas Morning News, our members are going to be voting to ratify their first contract June 13 and 14. And this contract is historic.”

American-Statesman reporter Claire Osborn talks about her experience while on strike Monday. Patricia Lim / KUT

Alexander said the media guild is one of the fastest growing unions in the country.

“Workers are seeing their colleagues across the country winning contracts that guarantee employment protection, as well as a voice for workers in their workplace,” she said.

Alexander said although the newspaper industry has been struggling over the last few decades, with less advertising revenue and fewer employees, there is still money that companies could be investing in workers.

“We do see that companies such as Gannett, their CEO makes millions of dollars,” she said. “There is money to be had. It’s just how they are choosing to allocate it.”

Alexander said she sees unions as a way to make the newspaper industry more stable.

“If these industries are struggling, allowing our workers to have sustainable careers in the communities and a contract that secures protection for them over the course of the next few years, it allows them to actually stay at the company that allows them to gain experience and to produce better journalism,” she said. “So ultimately, the organization efforts in the newsrooms are helping to make sure that the news industry is more sustainable.”

As for the Gannett strike, reporters at the Austin American-Statesman are back to work as of Tuesday, but other papers have continued actions planned.

“We had some members that attended the (Gannett) shareholders meeting yesterday and the company basically ignored that they were there,” Alexander said. “We’re pushing for a nationwide non-economic package to bring everyone up to the same spot in first contract bargaining. We also have some shops, for example, the Desert Sun News Guild (in California) – they’re going to be on strike until they get a contract. So it’s going to keep going across the country.”

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