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Tronc Journalists in VA File for Union Recognition

Tronc reporters are hoping for a seat at the table in negotiating with possible future owners. (Pixabay)
Tronc reporters are hoping for a seat at the table in negotiating with possible future owners. (Pixabay)
September 7, 2018

NORFOLK, Va. – Reporters wary of uncertainty at the Daily Press in Newport News and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk have announced plans to form a union.

The announcement Tuesday comes just three months after the papers' owners, Chicago-based Tronc, Inc., formerly the Tribune Publishing Company, purchased the Pilot and started consolidating both papers.

However, reporters say while no jobs were lost during that transition, there are rumors of another sale and they're worried about their future.

Ryan Murphy, The Virginian-Pilot's city hall reporter in Norfolk, is part of the union organizing committee hoping to join the NewsGuild-CWA. He says the journalists’ goal is to improve stability in their industry.

"Want to improve wages that have been stagnant for a long time,” he states. “We want to look at pay equity among our newsrooms between women and men, between people of different races, every spectrum. We want to make sure that we can get as many guarantees in a written contract as we can."

Reporters and photographers have asked Tronc executives to respond to their immediate voluntary recognition request by Thursday, at which point they would apply for a government-monitored process.

A Tronc spokeswoman had no comment on the latest unionization effort.

Tronc management has a history of fighting against attempts to form unions. In a California battle, Tronc sold the Los Angeles Times along with The San Diego Union-Tribune.

At the Chicago Tribune, the company opted for a federally overseen election before negotiating terms of the union's recognition.

Christopher Ali is an assistant professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. He says journalists across the country are trying to protect themselves against a crisis in their industry.

"I think we're seeing journalists worried that their corporate owners in this case Tronc are not going to protect them and this is a larger concern about corporate consolidation in the newspaper industry," says Ali.

Ali points to Pew Research Center findings that show newsroom employment across the United States continues to decline, driven primarily by job losses at newspapers - some 20,000 in the last 10 years.

More than 83 percent of employees across the two Virginia newsrooms signed cards to authorize the union effort.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA