AUSTIN, Texas — By and large, they’re the journalists who break news, follow up on it, and ask the tough questions of public officials. But being a print journalist in 2020 is an increasingly difficult line of work.
Layoffs, staff reductions, and dwindling budgets set by corporate owners are just a few of the challenges.
With that in mind, journalists with the Austin American-Statesman Wednesday announced plans to unionize, either via formal recognition of a union by parent company Gannett or by vote.
Journalists with the 150-year-old paper and its six community papers are working with The NewsGuild-CWA and have created the Austin NewsGuild, according to release made available Wednesday morning.
BREAKING: The journalists of the Austin American-Statesman are unionizing!— Austin NewsGuild (@AustinNewsGuild) December 9, 2020
For 150 years, the Statesman and its community papers have kept Austin informed, and in order to continue our important work, we are forming the Austin NewsGuild. https://t.co/ohsvXyme1o pic.twitter.com/QT86vKgq3q
According to that release, the Austin NewsGuild “will advocate for increased staff positions, stable benefits, career growth opportunities, anti-racist practices and diverse hiring efforts, giving employees the tools they need to be successful and produce quality journalism.”
The Austin NewsGuild states that journalists submitted a letter to Gannett on Wednesday requesting voluntary recognition of the union. Plan B is an election.
“At the Statesman we work together every day, serving the community by telling stories that need to be told,” said Austin American-Statesman sports bridge editor Catarino Vasquez. “It’s time we work together to ensure, through unionizing, that we can keep telling those stories at a high standard. We’re done losing veterans with institutional knowledge and promising young journalists without a fight.”
Gannett, which is based in McLean, Virginia, is the largest newspaper publisher in the country by daily circulation.
“It is unconscionable that in the midst of a pandemic, our company continues to cut staff and forces remaining employees to take on additional responsibilities, many with no additional compensation,” Austin American-Statesman editorial assistant Veronica Serrano said. “Having a collective bargaining unit is the only way for us to have a voice to address these and many other grievous wrongs, and will give us a chance to fight for our newsrooms and restore the balance of power for future generations.”
The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently unionized.