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Courier Journal staff vote to unionize

Louisville's Courier-Journal
Eleanor Hasken
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Louisville's Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Photo by Eleanor Hasken | Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

Reporters and photographers at Louisville’s Courier Journal have successfully organized in order to pursue improved working conditions after the newspaper’s corporate owner declined to voluntarily recognize their union.

The staff of Kentucky’s largest print newspaper voted 22 to 4 in favor of unionizing, a vote tally Friday afternoon revealed. The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees workplace organizing in the United States, hosted the month-long election.

A group of Courier Journal employees publicly announced organizing efforts in late August, seeking new terms with their employer Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper publisher. They say they want more input in organizational decisions and a pay-raise system that would benefit long-time workers, among other changes.

Dahlia Ghabour, the food and dining reporter, said after the outcome that it was a unifying message from the staff. 

“I think it says that we are stronger together and we know it, and that we are proud of the paper that we work at and we want it to be the best that it can be,” they said.

Connor Giffin is an environmental reporter for the Courier Journal and a Report for America corps member. He joined the paper in June and said he supported the union to strengthen the newsroom’s product.

“That becomes easier if we have a little more say in our work conditions. I think a union vote is definitely a step in that direction,” Giffin said.

The Courier Journal staff are now unionized with an Indianapolis chapter of NewsGuild-CWA. Ghabour said the group will decide on union leadership and seek to begin contract negotiations with Gannett.

Amy Garrard, Gannett’s labor relations counsel, acknowledged the result in an emailed statement.

“We respect the rights of our employees and their decision. The Courier Journal will continue as the leading news organization in Louisville, focused on our mission — delivering quality journalism that makes our communities better,” she said.

It is not clear whether the Courier Journal’s staff will be permitted to cover the outcome of the vote, which comes amid a wave of union efforts in Louisville and across the country.

On Thursday, Gannett announced another round of layoffs impacting its newsrooms. Affected journalists will be notified early next month, continuing a pattern of downsizing by the company.

Ghabour said Friday’s union vote could be vital to keeping journalists on board, as Gannett would need to talk with the union or any affected reporters first.

“If you are in a unionized newsroom, they cannot unilaterally change your working conditions without consulting you or consulting the bargaining unit negotiating with them and coming to an agreement,” they said.

Ghabour added that the decision would not affect scheduled unpaid furloughs in December among staff at the paper.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.