Staff at the Arizona Republic move to unionize
Newsroom staff at Arizona Republic are moving to unionize ahead of a major merger in the media industry, reports the Washington Post.
The Arizona Republic has long been a nonunion newspaper. But its parent company, news giant Gannett, is in line to merge with another massive publisher, GateHouse Media. Many journalists fear the merger would lead to even more layoffs. As the Phoenix New-Times reported, some staffers at the Republic now see unionization as a potential buffer against turmoil, a way to preserve their jobs and their journalism.
The union drive has churned up deep emotions in the newsroom.
The Huffington Post reported on a memo sent to staff by Arizona Republic executive editor Greg Burton in which he lamented the “divisive unionization effort.”
Burton alleged that ”several employees, in pursuit of their goal of unionizing our newsroom, are tracking the comings and goings of a number of their co-workers” who don’t support the effort, according to the Huffington Post.
Burton went on to tell the story of how a shady former detective he once reported on had entered his house and made a recording.
“I reference this incident to underscore the fact that journalists are targets of political haymakers and troublemakers, of operatives and would-be intimidators, of crackpots and criminals,” Burton wrote. “We are targets on social media. We are targets when we stand firm on a story that unmasks a murderer running for office, a teacher who molests children, an appointee who bulldozes indigenous artifacts or stockpiles weapons, a mobster who doesn’t much like being called a scam artist or a dirty trickster intent on DOXing a critic.”
He clarified: “These are the types who surveil journalists. Journalists don’t surveil other journalists.”
Stephanie Basile, an organizer with the NewsGuild, which is hoping to represent the Republic’s staffers, called the idea that pro-union employees were surveilling colleagues “absurd.” Basile said the union has a bingo-style card it hands out to workers enumerating the most common anti-union messages that come from employers.
“We never thought we would have to add ‘You’re murderers and child molesters’ to our bingo card,” she said.