Daily Hampshire Gazette, Valley Advocate Staff Petition To Form Labor Union

Nov 12, 2018

Updated at 5 p.m.

Staff at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Valley Advocate are taking steps to form a labor union. It'll be called the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild.

Employees said they're seeking voluntary recognition from the publications' owner, Newspapers of New England, Inc.

Dave Eisenstadter, an editor at the Gazette (and who appears on NEPR's The Short List), said a petition was presented on Monday to Aaron Julien, the president of NNE, Inc. 

"It was a very exciting moment for a lot of people," Eisenstadter said. "There was applause, people slapping each other on the back, people kind of pumping their fists, jumping up and down."

In a statement, the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild said the union includes 72 staff members who are dedicated to community journalism. From the statement:

We want to see our beloved news organization stay strong and vibrant for years to come. 

However, a series of decisions by management, made suddenly and without consultation with workers, have raised serious doubts about whether or not this will happen. “No one is asking us our thoughts or opinions on how we operate right now.” said Brenda Nelson, the Gazette’s librarian. “This union will let us be heard at the highest levels.”

Daily Hampshire Gazette editor Dave Eisenstadter wears a pin on Monday advocating for a labor union.
Credit Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The union will be a unit of The NewsGuild, which is part of the Communications Workers of America.

Staff writer Dusty Christensen said journalists began to organize around perceived gender-based pay inequities about a year ago.

“We reached out to the NewsGuild-CWA for support in organizing, and for help in addressing the many workplace issues that we discovered in talking to our colleagues, across all jobs and departments,” Christensen said.

Organizers hope Julien will recognize the union voluntarily. But they're also writing to the National Labor Relations Board to authorize an election.

Julien could not initially be reached for comment.

Publisher Michael Rifanburg offered a comment by email: "We think the world of employees at the Gazette who all work hard every day to make the Gazette a great paper. It's premature, however, for us to comment at this time."

Nancy Eve Cohen and Heather Brandon contributed to this report.