Reporters and editors of the Hartford Courant announced that they have formed a new bargaining unit.
One of the organizers told NBC Connecticut that about 60 reporters and editors would be covered by the new bargaining unit.
Rebecca Lurye is one of the organizers for the new Hartford Courant Guild, which has filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board for recognition by the Courant and its parent, Tribune Publishing.
Lurye says the petition for a union is not a direct response to any one event, even as the paper has seen layoffs over the past 15 years.
“I don’t think there was one last straw. We could have done this 10 years ago when the Courant lost 100 workers to mostly layoffs,” said Lurye, who covers business and health for the Courant. “And we gave the company 10 years to kind of right the ship, and now, if it’s going to happen, we need to be part of the conversation.”
The Courant is one of the newspapers under the Tribune Publishing label. The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are also part of Tribune, and each newsroom has seen successful unionization efforts in recent years.
Unionizing efforts have become more common as newsrooms have seen more cutbacks by corporate parents.
Courant Publisher Andrew Julien would not comment to NBC Connecticut about the petition from newsroom employees, but a spokesperson did provide the letter he sent to members of the Guild.
In the letter, Julien acknowledged receipt of the petition filed with the NLRB
“The economics of the newsroom are not what they used to be and there’s no way the newsroom is going to come back to its glory days of the 1980’s and the 1990’s,” said Rich Hanley, an Associate Professor of Journalism at Quinnipiac University.
“At some point, journalists needed to say, ‘stop it,’ and this move by the Courant is that moment. They’re saying the newspaper is too important to let executives decide its future.”
The Hartford Courant is the longest continuously circulated newspaper in the United States, going back 254 years.
Lurye says employees are looking for a voice when major decisions are being made that affect readers and employees. On employment issues, Lurye specifically mentioned wanting to have a say in raises, grievance procedures, and cost of living increases.
“We just think it will look better. It will be stronger. It will be more stable. We’re lucky to still have people with decades of experience at the Courant and they shouldn’t have to go through their jobs feeling like the next shoe is going to drop on them and constantly worrying about whether they’re valued by the company.”
Lurye says she hopes the Courant voluntarily recognizes the Guild as a bargaining unit. More than 80 percent of the newsroom signed cards backing the effort.
She says she hopes the new group working as a union could help to keep the Courant as a Connecticut institution and have a seat at the table helping shape how that happens.
“We really don’t know who will own us a month or a day from now or a year. It means that we’re always able to negotiate those major things. It means that we’re able to advocate for ourselves and that’s not a natural thing for journalists sometimes, to be activists or advocate for anything, but it’s OK for us to ask for the tools we need to do our jobs to the best of our ability.”