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Making Sense Of Unionizing 'The Ledger' Of Lakeland


In the past couple of decades, "unions" has become a dirty word in Florida. This is a right to work state, and it seems even mentioning the word has become kind of a political dagger - just think of teacher's unions.  Most of the remaining unions are focused on trades, so when news came about newspaper reporters at The Ledger in Lakeland wanting to unionize, that made headlines.  

This from the Columbia Journalism Review:

Journalists at The Ledger, a local newspaper in Lakeland, Florida, that dates to 1924, announced this week that they have taken steps to unionize. If the drive is successful, The Ledger would be the only paper in the state with a unionized newsroom. The move, said Gary White, a reporter and one of the leaders of the union effort, comes out of “a sense of desperation” exacerbated by the actions of owner Gatehouse Media, which bought The Ledger and other papers in the former Halifax chain in January 2015. “Those of us remaining in the newsroom have seen so many people laid off, especially since Gatehouse took over, that we became concerned about The Ledger continuing as a viable newspaper,” reporter Gary White said.

Today, there are approximately 25 journalists in The Ledger newsroom who would be eligible to be union members, organizers said. Eighteen of them signed a statement declaring they are “dedicated to negotiating a labor contract that gives journalists a voice in preserving and enhancing The Ledger.” A couple more signed cards stating their desire to be represented by The NewsGuild that were turned in to the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, White said. Under NLRB procedures, that will trigger a union vote, which could take place within the next few weeks.

In 2015, New Media Investment Group Inc. completed its purchase of Halifax Media Group, which owned The Ledger and 35 other newspapers across the country.

WUSF's Steve Newborn talks about the unionization effort with Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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