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Idaho Statesman Journalists Announce Plans To Unionize

Idaho Statesman

Newsroom employees at the Idaho Statesman announced plans Monday to form a union — the first in the paper's history.

All 16 non-supervising journalists at Idaho's largest daily newspaper signed a mission statement to form the Idaho News Guild. 

"We're asking for equal pay," said Statesman reporter and guild supporter Ruth Brown. "We're asking for simple things like mileage rates, notifications in the event of a layoff."

Talks about organizing began in December, following the footsteps of the Miami Herald newsroom, another McClatchy publication, which made a similar move in October. The publisher did not voluntarily recognize that union.

"Our publisher has 24 hours to acknowledge our union voluntarily, and we don't anticipate that will happen," said Brown.

Tuesday afternoon, The guild announced it had not received any response from McClatchy and was moving on to become recognized through a ballot process administered by the National Labor Relations Board. The 16 eligible newsroom supporters would hold an official vote within four weeks.

Tuesday evening, The Idaho News Guild reported on twitter that a McClatchy spokeswoman had issued a response to the group.

"It goes without saying, but for the absense of any doubt: we intend to work with you in good faith, collaboratively and efficiently," McClatchy wrote. They cited unique legal issues regarding labor action in the middle of the company's bankruptcy process as a reason their response didn't meet the initial 24-hour deadline.

A spokeswoman provided a similar statement to Boise State Public Radio Wednesday morning. 

Brown said the group will still go forward with the NLRB balloting process to be recognized.

"People feel united in a way they haven't in the past," she said. "People, I think, are eager to talk to McClatchy and have a voice in the decisions that are made."

Brown expects that unity to hold, even though 'right-to-work' laws in Idaho don't require union members to pay dues in order to benefit from union-negotiated contracts.

"We're confident most of our newsroom is supportive and will be willing to pay dues," she said.

The Idaho Statesman would be the sixth of 29 McClatchy newsrooms to unionize, and the second in the last six months. Two of those unionized newsrooms, at The Lexington Herald-Leader and the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, are also in states with 'right-to-work' laws.

McClatchy, which bought the Statesman as part of the Knight-Ridder acquisition in 2006, filed chapter 11 bankruptcy Feb. 13. The Idaho News Guild would be part of national labor organization Newsguild-CWA, which is one of seven creditor entities overseeing McClatchy's bankruptcy restructuring.

A McClatchy spokeswoman wrote in a statement Monday, "The Idaho Stateman and McClatchy are reviewing a letter from our journalists in Boise sharing their intention to form a union. We appreciate the right of our journalists to be represented by the News Guild-CWA and will consider their request and respond shortly."

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

This story has been updated with new information as of 8 a.m. Wednesday March 4, 2020.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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