‘It’s time for McClatchy to care about us’

WHATCOM — Journalists at The Bellingham Herald and three other McClatchy Company-owned newspapers in Washington state are unionizing. 

Nearly 90 percent of eligible reporters, visual journalists and digital staff at the newspapers have signed cards authorizing representation by The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild of The NewsGuild-CWA, the guild reported in a press release.

The employees in the new bargaining unit have requested voluntary recognition from management, citing overwhelming support among staff, as well as McClatchy’s recent decisions to voluntarily recognize unions at the Hilton Head Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette (South Carolina) and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas).

The other three Northwest papers are The News Tribune in Tacoma, The Olympian and the Tri-City Herald. 

Organizers say it is with their communities in mind that the union will advocate for workplace security, diversity and inclusion and investments in the four newsrooms. Organizers claim the four newsrooms do not now reflect the communities they serve, and that needs to change. 

“I grew up in Pierce County, and watching the paper my family subscribed to as a kid suffer has been incredibly painful to watch,” said Matt Driscoll, an organizer and reporter and columnist at The News Tribune. “Like an overwhelming majority of my colleagues, I’m supporting unionization because I believe it will give us a chance to build the kind of newspaper this community deserves. It will help us diversify the newsroom and become a paper that reflects our community, which has been a glaring issue since long before I started.”

Under McClatchy, the papers say, they each have suffered losses that have been felt not only by the staff, but by the communities the papers cover. Over the past decade, the number of people working at the four newsrooms has precipitously declined, even as the population in the communities has increased and the issues needing coverage have multiplied.

Collectively, the four papers are down to a total of fewer than 40 union-eligible newsroom staff. 

“Our communities deserve to have local papers that not only provide community-focused, watchdog journalism, but have a company that invests in the journalists telling those stories. We deserve fair working conditions and appropriate pay. This effort is for the survival of our papers,” said Denver Pratt, a courts and criminal justice reporter at The Bellingham Herald. “Each of us care about our jobs and respective communities. It’s time for McClatchy to care about us.”