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Media Meltdowns

Daily News EIC Accidentally Makes Strong Case For Union

Signage for the New York Daily News is displayed on the facade of their Broad Street office, September 5, 2017 in New York City. Tronc, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times newspapers, announced on Monday that is had purchased The New York Daily News. Previously owned by Mort Zuckerman, Tronc paid one dollar in cash plus the assumption of liabilities to purchase the nearly 100-year old tabloid newspaper.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A little more than month after staffers at the Tribune Publishing-owned New York Daily News announced they had formed a union, they will be voting on whether to unionize with the News Guild. Ahead of the voting which is slated to begin next week, Daily News Editor-in-Chief Robert York sent an email to staff this afternoon addressing the vote. A boss addressing the formation of a union is fairly standard, as is union-busting language, which can be coded or overt, but the email from York, who has refused to voluntarily recognize the union, seemed to unintentionally make a pretty good case for why every single person should vote in favor of the union.

In the email, obtained by Defector, York acknowledged that many people would have already made up their minds about the benefits of “collective bargaining for policies like pay increases, vacation policies, layoff priorities and many other factors.” But those who are undecided, he suggested, need to ask themselves a series of questions in order to “triangulate a clear vision of the truth.” York wrote (emphasis mine):

What are the priorities the guild leadership will be pushing for in the contract negotiations? Are these in line with your priorities?

In talking to others in organizing or bargaining committees at other Tribune papers, what has been their experience in bargaining? How long have they been engaged in it and what tangible results have they secured?

What has the existing leadership of this newsroom done in the past 32 months (since July of ’18) that makes it preferable to form a collective bargaining unit?

What will the formation of the unit do to affect material (measurable) change to the actions of future ownership?

In the past year, Tribune Publishing execs have furloughed workers and slashed their pay, permanently closed the Daily News newsroom, fled Slack when asked to square the deep cuts with shareholder profits, and then sent a phishing email touting fake bonuses as a way to test workers’ digital security practices. And after all that, in mid-February Tribune Publishing and its properties were sold to the vampiric Alden Global Capital, synonymous with enthusiastically gutting newspapers to turn a profit.

“We have already decided the answers to those questions,” Dennis Young, a Daily News sports writer and editor, said. “We want to negotiate with them to make the newsroom better for everyone. Instead of doing that, they’re wasting time and wasting energy by trying to divide us. It’s not going to work.” (Disclosure: Young is a former coworker of mine.)

The newspaper’s union said as much as well in a statement posted on Twitter:

York’s full email, which was not trying to telegraph full-throated support for the union, is below:

Newsroom staff:

Next week, those of you who are included in the proposed bargaining unit will be asked to cast a confidential ballot that will carry substantial influence over many aspects of the newsroom’s future. For those who believe fully in collective bargaining for policies like pay increases, vacation policies, layoff priorities and many other factors, this note is going to be dismissed quickly.

Similar to those that are leading this effort, I encourage every person included in the proposed unit to vote. Sitting this one out helps neither the guild nor newsroom leadership.

For those who are still uncertain about the value of supporting the creation of a collective bargaining unit, I offer the following questions and recommend that you find suitable answers to all of them before casting your ballot.

What are the priorities the guild leadership will be pushing for in the contract negotiations? Are these in line with your priorities?

In talking to others in organizing or bargaining committees at other Tribune papers, what has been their experience in bargaining? How long have they been engaged in it and what tangible results have they secured?

What has the existing leadership of this newsroom done in the past 32 months (since July of ’18) that makes it preferable to form a collective bargaining unit?

What will the formation of the unit do to affect material (measurable) change to the actions of future ownership?While the leadership of the NY News Guild and the organizing committee in our newsroom will have answers to these questions, I encourage you to use all skills at your disposal to also seek answers from a variety of others in both NYC newsrooms and other Tribune newsrooms. Once you feel like you have triangulated a clear vision of the truth – vote your conscience.

Many thanks for your time reading this,

Robert

Robert York
Editor-in-Chief
The New York Daily News