Employees at the Orlando Sentinel have decided to unionize as the newspaper industry continues to make cuts and faces upheaval.
Reporters and other employees at Orlando’s leading newspaper have formed a union they dubbed the Sentinel Guild, which is part of the NewsGuild-CWA.
The announcement was made this week after 78 percent of staffers that were eligible voted in favor of forming the union.
“The Orlando Sentinel built an award-winning, nationally recognized team with incomparable institutional knowledge and unrivaled connections to Central Florida — and it has been gutted, with senior journalists and talented young reporters pushed out as our corporate management in Chicago and our largest shareholders have been rewarded. In January alone, the Sentinel lost 130 years of journalism expertise,” the union noted. “This union is our way of defending the future of our newsroom–Central Florida’s access to quality local journalism.”
The union will be made up of about 50 editors, columnists, photographers and newspaper staffers including long time Sentinel reporter Jason Garcia, who left the Sentinel for a short period this decade but returned and now has 14 years of service.
“We challenge powerful people and institutions and give voice to those who otherwise have none,” Garcia said. “And we have continued to do so even as our corporate management in Chicago has laid off so many of our colleagues and friends, cut our newsgathering resources and careened from one poor strategic decision to another. This cannot continue. All of us here are committed to preserving our community’s access to quality local journalism. Our union will help us do that.”
One of the factors driving the decision has been Alden Global Capital, which some employees have nicknamed the “destroyer of newspapers,” now ranks as the largest shareholder of Tribune Publishing. That worries Gabrielle Russon who has been a Sentinel reporter since November 2014.
“Journalism is my passion. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s also a career where every single day, I worry about losing my job. Our newsroom has been demoralized by layoffs and buyouts and reapplying for our positions. The newsroom is a sea of empty desks. As the newspaper industry continues to struggle, I’m fearful of what happens next if Alden gains control of the company. I support a union because we want a voice at the table to demand our owners invest in us and support local journalism,” Russon said.
More newspapers across Florida are unionizing. In recent months, workers at the Miami Herald, the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville and the Palm Beach Post have all formed unions or are in the process of doing.
Florida Daily reached out to Tribune Publishing for comment but, so far, has not received a response.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.