The editorial staff of the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown has voted to unionize with the News Guild Communication Workers of America.
According to organizers, 72 percent of the 47 editorial employees voted to unionize as the Morning Call Guild of the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, TNG/SWA Local 38010.
The union also represents employees of publications such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly.com, Delaware County Times and the Pottstown Mercury.
“I'm excited and proud to be part of the overwhelming majority of Morning Call journalists who voted 'yes,’” said reporter Peter Hall. “I believe today's result will be positive for the newsroom employees, the newspaper and the community it serves.”
Editorial employees had submitted a petition on Feb. 25 asking Tribune Publishing, the paper’s parent company to voluntarily recognize the union. The petition was not accepted, so a vote was necessary if workers were to establish a union.
Editor-in-Chief Terry Rang and editors Mike Miorelli and John Misinco, representing the paper’s management, released a joint statement on the vote.
“Our intent was to have an exchange of ideas and to make sure everyone, through their ballot, had the chance to be heard. Together, we have met that goal, and at the conclusion of the process, the newsroom will be represented by the NewsGuild,” they said.
The newspaper’s editorial staff had previously been in a union but it disbanded about 15 years ago.
Morning Call reporter Sarah Wojcik said the effort to unionize is not related to the previous union.
“We really consider that apples and oranges to what we’re trying to do here,” she said.
She said the previous union was open shop, meaning anyone could chose to join, and membership dwindled to the point where staff decided to de-unionize. She noted that very few current members of the editorial staff were with the paper at the time the union disbanded.
Today she said, they are feeling the need to have better representation.
She said while the financial challenges facing the news industry are nothing new, changes are happening rapidly in the industry. She noted that Tribune is up for sale, putting the reporters’ future in question.
“Reporters feel that something needs to be done to give us a say in how these changes are happening in newsrooms,” Wojcik said.
She said the unionizing employees have realistic expectations.
“We are aware of the financial reality of the news industry. We know it’s very difficult for newspapers right now,” she said. “We’re not going to unionize and ask for the moon. We just want a contract where we can stay in this career and make a living.”
The full union membership will meet soon to elect leaders and discuss the coming negotiations.
“Our future depends on our ability to meet the needs of our readers,” the editors stated. “Let’s work together to better understand our audience, make necessary changes, and transform our newsroom for the next generation of Lehigh Valley residents.”