Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press journalists file for union election after Tronc refuses to recognize union

NORFOLK, Va. – The combined staff of The Virginian-Pilot and the Daily Press filed Thursday for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board after more than 83 percent of employees across the two newsrooms signed cards to authorize the union effort.

Tronc, the parent company of both papers, said in a letter to the Tidewater Media Guild that it did not have enough information to make a decision on whether to voluntarily recognize the guild. The guild requested voluntary recognition in a letter on Tuesday after citing overwhelming support from each newsroom.

Without voluntary recognition of the union — which would allow the group to begin bargaining — the only avenue to union authorization is now through a federally overseen vote.

“We hope Tronc will see a union as a good thing rather than a bad thing, encouraging journalists to stay at our papers and do great journalism,” Daily Press reporter Pete Dujardin said. “We hope the company sees our overwhelming support and agrees to recognize us without a vote.”

The Tidewater Media Guild organizing committee said that if Tronc were to voluntarily recognize the union after the filing, the group would cancel the election and immediately commence bargaining.

Virginian-Pilot photojournalist Kristen Zeis said that support from inside and outside the newsroom has been encouraging since the effort was made public Tuesday morning.

In a major show of solidarity, 15 employees asked to have their names added to the Tidewater Media Guild organizing committee’s missions statement since Tuesday morning. The number of signatures now stands at 55 – nearly half of the staff of the combined newsrooms.

“I’m so proud to work alongside such a talented group of journalists all with the same mission: to have a say in the future of our newsrooms,” Zeis said.

Tronc purchased The Virginian-Pilot for $34 million this May and has owned the Daily Press since 1986. Both papers have served Hampton Roads for well over a century.

The journalists want to preserve the institutions of The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press and believe unionizing is the best way to ensure the newspapers are producing the best journalism possible for years to come.

“In order to carry out our mission of quality watchdog journalism, we need support. We need it from our readers. We need it from our coworkers and editors. And we need it from our employer. Our newsroom can’t afford any less,” said Virginian-Pilot designer Lisa Merklin.

Journalists at The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press announced plans to unionize together as the Tidewater Media Guild on Tuesday, the same day the daily operations of the two papers were merged.

The group is seeking union representation by The NewsGuild, a sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). CWA has 700,000 members across the U.S. and Canada.

By unionizing, the journalists seek to ensure wage equity, fair hiring practices and diversity in the workforce, among other goals.