Organizing a Union From Home
The Orlando Sentinel organized a union while isolated at home
This post was written by Annie Martin, a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel, for Labor Notes
When the Orlando Sentinel’s newsroom employees won our election in May with 81 percent voting for The NewsGuild, the organizing committee had not seen our co-workers in person for nearly two months. The election was conducted entirely by mail. Supporters watched the vote count at the National Labor Relations Board’s Tampa office by videoconference.
Yet we were confident of victory because over two years, we had laid a solid foundation for the union.
We had built an organizing committee that was representative of the newsroom—different experience levels, teams, and roles. We had developed deep relationships with our colleagues, including the ones who weren’t sure they supported our effort. And we had made the case for why we needed a union.
That reason was the corporate gutting of our newsroom. In the last 15 years, it had shrunk from more than 300 employees to fewer than 90. Earlier this year, we lost 130 years of journalism experience when several of our colleagues took buyouts.
With each cut, it becomes more difficult to give readers the thorough, high-quality journalism they deserve. Like the other newspaper unions in the Tribune chain, which includes the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, and the Hartford Courant, we were deeply concerned about the potential takeover by hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which has a 32 percent stake in our company. In other newsrooms Alden’s majority ownership has translated to widespread layoffs, and ours had already been cut to the bone.