Local news staff on one-day strike at Gannett newspapers Monday; cite mismanagement, no contract
The staff of the Fort Myers News-Press and the Naples Daily News went on a one-day strike Monday, June 5, in the hope that it will get them a fair contract from Gannett, America’s biggest newspaper publisher.
Gannett owns both Southwest Florida papers.
The papers' workers unionized as the Southwest Florida News Guild in 2020 under the auspices of The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, but staffers say they still don’t have a contract.
According to a statement from the News Guild of New York Local 31003 CWA published Thursday in the industry journal Editor & Publisher, the strike is timed to coincide with Gannett’s annual shareholder meeting Monday.
Hundreds of union journalists in two dozen newsrooms across the United States are expected to take part to demand that Gannett get serious about reinvesting in local news, in the largest collective action that Gannett employees have taken to date.
The E&P article said journalists will take the one-day walkouts on the day of the meeting, with some newsrooms walking off the job for two days or more. The Gannett publications participating will come from more than half a dozen states, including Florida, California, Arizona, Texas, Indiana, New Jersey and New York.
Dan DeLuca is a sports reporter for the News Press and the Naples Daily News. He says that this was not an easy decision to make for the local reporters and photographers.
“We’ve been forced to do this by a company that has abdicated its responsibility to produce responsible journalism that properly informs citizens what is happening in their communities,” DeLuca said. “It’s only come after we’ve spent three years bargaining for a fair contract with Gannett. In that time, Gannett has spent millions of dollars paying its lawyers to not meaningfully negotiate contracts at newspapers all over the country, including ours.”
Some of the striking workers will, instead of filing stories, taking photos and speaking with sources, carry out volunteer work at various venues such as a clean-up at beaches in Bonita Springs.
When reached for comment, Gannett sent this statement:
“Despite the anticipated work stoppage, we will not cease delivering trusted news to our loyal readers. Our goal is to preserve journalism and serve our communities across the country as we continue to bargain in good faith to finalize contracts that provide equitable wages and benefits for our valued employees."
The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 50 Gannett bargaining units, covering more than 1,000 employees.
The E&P article said striking workers are calling on shareholders to withhold their vote on Gannett Co., Inc. Board Chairman and CEO Mike Reed at the June 5 meeting.
In the article, the union workers charged that under Reed’s stewardship of the company following the merger of GateHouse Media and Gannett Media in November 2019, newsrooms have been hollowed out, local news coverage has dwindled, and Gannett share prices have fallen nearly 70% — far more than peers in the industry like The New York Times and Lee Enterprises.
Gannett owns more than 200 daily newspapers across the country, down from the 261 it owned at the time of its merger with GateHouse in 2019.
The New York local said in the E&P article that a sample of ten Gannett publications (eight of which will be involved in next week’s work stoppage) the NewsGuild found that local news stories had declined by 59 - 95% over the past decade.
During Reed’s tenure, the New York local's statement said, the company’s finances have been grossly mismanaged in the service of massive self-incurred debt and Gannett has cut nearly 20% of its journalism jobs in the last year, instituted unpaid furloughs and a hiring slowdown and suspended company contributions to employee 401(k) plans.
“Under Mike Reed’s watch, Gannett has become radioactive to investors. Reed doesn’t care one bit about a long-term strategy to invest in the company by investing in journalists. They need support and resources to make sure our communities have the local news needed to keep our democracy thriving. Instead, Reed’s singular focus has been on stuffing his own pockets. Reed has overstayed his welcome at Gannett and needs to go,” Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild-CWA, said.
A Boston Business Journal story this week said Reed received $3.38 million in total compensation in 2022, less than half the amount he earning in 2021, according to a new securities filing.
That is still 66 times the pay of the national newspaper company's median U.S. employee in 2022, listed as $51,035.
The Southwest Florida News Guild set up a gofundme to help the workers who will lose a day's pay by their walkout. As of Sunday night the union said funding reached it's intended goal of covering a day's pay for workers who walked off their jobs at both newspapers.
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