New Jersey legislators support local journalists’ efforts to unionize

Lawmakers wrote to Gannett CEO Michael Reed condemning the company's interference

Pascrell visited the Hudson County Vaccination Distribution Center in Kearny on Jan. 26.
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Pascrell visited the Hudson County Vaccination Distribution Center in Kearny on Jan. 26.

A group of New Jersey legislators have sent a letter to Gannett CEO Michael Reed standing up for local journalism and urging the company to cease efforts to interfere with the right of employees to unionize at the Record and NorthJersey.com, Daily Record and New Jersey Herald.

Among the lawmakers involved in the letter are U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. Pascrell represents the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey which includes Secaucus.

“Journalists make enormous sacrifices and often risk their personal health and safety in a demanding and frequently thankless job to serve their communities,” the letter stated. “Journalists deserve respect and dignity in the workplace, and have the right under federal law to unionize, should they freely choose that path. We are concerned to learn that Gannett has engaged in anti-union campaigning and procedural delay tactics designed to exert influence and poison the union election process. Such union-busting is anathema to democracy and has no place in New Jersey, where there is a proud and long history of unionized labor.”

Unionizing local news

A supermajority of reporters, photographers and producers at Gannett’s North Jersey properties, including the Record, NorthJersey.com, Daily Record and New Jersey Herald, have elected to form the Record Guild, affiliated with the NewsGuild of New York, TNG-CWA Local 31003, in an effort to unionize. After Record Guild filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the leadership team at these papers began conducting anti-union captive audience meetings with employees.

“This is a clear attempt to discourage workers from exercising their statutory rights to form a union,” the letter continued. “We call on you to immediately instruct these papers’ leadership to refrain from further anti-union campaigning and to also abandon your claim that these newsrooms are an inappropriate unit for collective bargaining. Your employees deserve to have a collective voice at the table and are legally entitled to an unimpeded, democratic union election process.”

The letter states that the legislators were surprised that Gannett claims that the three papers are separate news organizations and therefore an inappropriate unit for collective bargaining. In expressing their support for workers’ rights to unionize and collectively bargain, the lawmakers stressed the importance of local journalism to any healthy democracy.

“Strong, independent local journalism is vital to any healthy democracy in order to ensure an informed public and to hold those in power, including ourselves, accountable to the people they serve,” the letter stated.

According to the lawmakers, the actions to break up the union membership will only serve to further weaken local news. Union representation will provide these newspaper employees with the opportunity to negotiate for better pay, benefits and job security, they said.

“We respectfully ask that you honor your employees’ rights and refrain from any further anti-union tactics,” the letter stated.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.