Jan. 19, 2018 – The results are in: Newsroom employees at the Los Angeles Times voted 248-44 to join The NewsGuild-CWA, ending 136 years of unfettered rule by management. Those voting in favor of the union captured 85 percent of the vote.
Reporters, copy editors, graphic artists and photographers who organized the union drive were elated.
“Today we made history,” they wrote in a letter to their co-workers. “For the first time since the Los Angeles Times printed its inaugural edition in 1881, our journalists have voted to form a union.
“We’ve long been a proud voice for our readers. Finally, we can be a proud voice for ourselves. Anyone familiar with the history of The Times— and of Los Angeles itself— knows the significance of what we’ve just accomplished.”
Jon Schleuss, a graphics and data reporter who was on the union Organizing Committee, said the vote sends a message to Tronc, the paper’s owner: “You have to work with us and you have to begin working with us today.”
The union drive was initiated by newsroom employees, who spent months talking with their co-workers to build support for the union. By the time on-site voting took place on Jan. 4, the newsroom was awash with pro-union signs and the group’s Twitter feed was filled with workers explaining why they were voting “yes.”
“My dream was to work here since middle school. I wanted my communities — Latinos, youths and LGBTQ — reflected in our coverage. That’s why I’m voting today @latguild. Let’s continue to open doors for others,” tweeted digital editor Brian De Los Santos.
“After 136 years of giving a voice to others, it’s time Los Angeles Times journalists had a voice of their own,” wrote Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bettina Boxall.
The workers’ victory is part of a national trend, said NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer. “The media landscape is changing, with the demands of private profiteers pushing against the hallowed traditions of quality journalism.
“The journalists of the L.A. Times are taking control of their own future,” he said.
Columnist Steve Lopez said, “Maybe unions can’t save the news biz. But they can raise the voices of those who can — journalists. Having written for decades about economic justice, I’m with Los Angeles Times Guild colleagues committed to a mission I share at a newspaper I love.”
The Guild is moving quickly to tap into the enthusiasm of the campaign. “We encourage everyone to get involved, even if you were not a part of the union election campaign,” the Organizing Committee’s letter said. “The union we’ve created belongs to everyone. There is no better time to get involved.”
Organizers will soon seek volunteers for a committee to negotiate a first-ever collective bargaining agreement with L.A. Times management. Workers are seeking improved pay, better benefits, pay equity for women and people of color, greater diversity and better working conditions.
More about the decision to vote yes:
Business reporter Geoffrey Mohan tweeted, “After three decades in journalism, I won’t stand by while outside, nouveau investors try to turn local journalism into a sweatshop. I support @latguild.”
“There’s a lot of emphasis on our ‘independence’ in [management’s] anti-union email. But @latguild isn’t a third party. It’s us, the journalists of the L.A. Times. We’re standing up for each other, together,” tweeted copy editor Kristina Bui.
“When I moved to LA I was shocked at the low morale and high turnover. I was also shocked at how dependent we are on interns, trainees, and contractors who are underpaid, underappreciated and overworked. The ONLY people who are addressing this is @latguild,” wrote designer Bakr Saliq.
“I’m voting YES for the #latguild in tomorrow’s historic election at the L.A. Times to preserve a great institution’s ethical standards and quality of journalism. Any erosion of them and the paper is doomed, including financially,” said investigative reporter Paul Pringle.
“I love the Los Angeles Times, and I want to make it better,” transportation reporter Laura Nelson said. “Big breaking news stories and investigations are proof that we’re at our best when we collaborate. We should stand together to fight for our workplace, too.”
“Our newspaper has no problem pointing out inequalities outside our building,” said reporter Jaweed Kaleem, who covers race and justice. “It’s time to seriously address them inside — locking in pay, benefits and editorial independence.”