Why form a union?
We are forming the Kansas City News Guild so that Star journalists have a say in our future and in that of the newspaper we love at a time when that future is uncertain under new ownership.
We believe local input is crucial to strengthening news coverage in our region to keep our readers informed by continuing to provide ample, fair and probing news coverage for generations to come. For that to happen and for the company to have long-lasting success, The Star needs well-trained, thoughtful and committed journalists who deserve fair pay and benefits, as well as safe working conditions at a time of global pandemic. Forming a union will open a dialogue with management and help us accomplish those goals through negotiations so that we can jointly work to serve the community.
Who will be part of the union?
The Kansas City News Guild will represent reporters, photographers and videographers, artists and other content providers who do not have supervisory roles. The bargaining unit won’t include members of The Star’s editorial board, supervisory editors or the editors’ support staff.
What are the steps in forming a union?
Once a majority of eligible employees sign cards indicating we want The NewsGuild-CWA to represent us in collective bargaining, we will ask the company for voluntary recognition. If the company chooses not to do so, then we will present the cards to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB will set a time for members of the proposed bargaining unit to vote by secret ballot on whether to form a union.
Can I be punished for joining or supporting the union?
No. It is illegal under federal law to retaliate against employees who organize a union by firing you, cutting your pay and benefits, changing your work assignment or schedule or retaliating in any way.
How is the Kansas City NewsGuild structured and how are decisions made?
Staff members formed an organizing committee in 2020, and membership is open to all who are eligible to join our guild. A smaller communications committee was formed to create documents like this one, write a mission statement and establish an online presence. Union leadership will be chosen by a majority vote of local guild members. Once our union wins official recognition, members will form a bargaining committee to negotiate a proposed contract with management. Union members must approve any contract by a majority vote for it to take effect.
What will the union do for me?
We will fight together for better, more equitable pay and for better staffing so that we can better serve our readers. As we all know, pay varies wildly within the newsroom and we suspect some staffers are underpaid compared to their peers. This imbalance has continued for years because only management knows our salaries.
We will conduct a confidential salary analysis with the aim of eliminating the disparities in pay between staffers based on experience, seniority and job expectations.
What will happen if we don’t unionize?
That’s anyone’s guess. We don’t know what changes our new owner, Chatham Asset Management, has in mind for the long term and we are not naive enough to take at face value the promises the hedge fund made during the bankruptcy process with regard to pay and staffing. We do know that we had no voice in the decision-making that saw more than two-thirds of our staff slashed during the past 12 years.
The future of the news business remains uncertain. Do you want to have a say in what happens to you and The Star? Or are you willing to place all your trust in a New Jersey hedge fund whose secretive managing partner does not give interviews?
How much are the dues and what’s their purpose?
National union dues are 1.3846 percent of base pay and are not collected until a first contract is negotiated and ratified by union members. Dues cover the costs associated with contract negotiations, research, legal expenses, organizing and other expenses. Local dues will be decided by local union members.
We will work to negotiate a contract with raises that will more than offset union dues. We don’t know what those raises will be, but recall that The Star has not given across-the-board raises for more than a year, and before that no more than 1.5 percent on average.
What if I don’t want to be a member of the union?
We would hope all members of the staff would want to be part of the union. But those who wish not to be will still receive negotiated pay and benefits. Under Missouri law, they would pay a monthly fee to cover the costs associated with bargaining and defending employees’ rights.
What is the NewsGuild-CWA?
The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America represents 25,000 journalists and other communications professionals in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico at publications and digital sites that include The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Post and Consumer Reports. Formerly known as The Newspaper Guild, the union was founded by journalists in 1933. The Guild merged with the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America in 1995. Other McClatchy papers that have Guild locals include the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee, Fresno Bee, Idaho Statesman, Lexington Herald-Leader and Bradenton Herald.
Will this affect my relationship with the editors?
The Kansas City News Guild will be bargaining with representatives selected by The Star’s owners, not newsroom editors. Our editors are dedicated to good, hard-hitting journalism that serves the community we live in. So are we. And that’s why we are forming this union – to get the resources and respect necessary to do our jobs well.
Will the union make me go on strike?
We will decide on the actions we take. We will engage in a variety of tactics that build our strength and that our members support. We’ll build solidarity with T-shirt days and social events. We’ll formulate goals, present them to management, and launch petition drives and social media campaigns to support them. We’ll work to win support among readers and in the community as we fight to protect local journalism. We’ll call for a strike only if we decide it’s necessary to accomplish our objectives and only if we have the support to make it successful.