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News Guild

Chicago Tribune Votes in their Union

Parent company Tronc voluntarily recognizes union after 85% of staff members sign cards

Brian Young's picture
May 07, 2018

After 171 years of operating as a non-union newspaper the Chicago Tribune’s staff finally have a recognized union in their workplace.

On Sunday, under intense pressure from the staff Tronc, the Tribune’s parent company, agreed to voluntarily recognize the union. The bargaining unit will be made up of three parts, one for the Chicago Tribune and the entertainment-oriented tabloid RedEye; a second for the company's suburban publications and the Spanish-language Chicago newspaper Hoy; and a third for the growing corporate-based design and print center that has centralized many editorial production functions for Tronc's publications in Chicago and beyond. The unit will include 280 people.

To get the union, the Chicago Newspaper Guild got a stunning 85% of the staff to sign union cards. Tronc originally said that they would not recognize the union, which would have caused a costly election to take place. However, once it became clear that they would lose, the company decided to voluntarily recognize the Newspaper Guild.

The organizing effort is a huge one for the Guild. The Tribune has historically been very anti-union. For over a century their editorial page has been full of anti-union propaganda. Through new owners, this tradition had continued. The organizing victory also comes just a few months after another long-time anti-union Tronc paper, the Los Angeles Times, voted to join the News guild.

Journalists cited a basket of concerns that led to them organizing, including fears for their job security after two rounds of layoffs in the past six months; irregular and scant raises; rising health care costs; and a desire for more generous family leave conditions. They also worried about Tronc's commitment to the newsroom's mission, including concerns about journalistic independence, resources to staff the paper adequately, and the executives' own practice of assigning generous compensation for themselves.

"It's long past time that the journalists at the Tribune and its community publications have a say in how our newspaper operates," said Charles J. Johnson, a Tribune homepage editor who is one of the core organizers of the Chicago Newspaper Guild chapter told NPR. "We have been badly mistreated by a series of corporate owners, Tronc only being the most recent, and we've decided to take some control over the future of our journalism in the city of Chicago."

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