The editorial staff at the nonprofit news website The Bay Citizen voted to affiliate with the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-CWA (TNG-CWA). This is the first start-up news website to form a union.
In a letter to the website’s CEO Lisa Frazier before the vote, the editorial staff wrote:
We believe The Bay Citizen, as one of the pioneering exponents of new civic journalism, should also be a leading example in the area of workplace democracy.
The workers had the support of union journalists at The New York Times and KGO radio, which have agreements to obtain local news content from The Bay Citizen.
TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said the result marks an historic advance for media workers in an industry that is struggling to find new ways to stay competitive in the online era.
The future of quality journalism depends on reporters and editors shaping the vision of innovative new media organizations. By voting to be represented by the Guild, employees at The Bay Citizen have given themselves this voice.
The Bay Citizen was founded in 2010 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to fact-based, independent reporting on civic and community issues in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its journalists cover Bay Area civic and cultural news topics. The site also partners widely with independent media organizations and produces the Bay Area pages of the The New York Times.
This article originally appeared on the AFL-CIO blog on July 20, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.