The cars along West 7th Street on Dec. 8 weren’t honking because of traffic. They were responding to Fort Worth Star-Telegram journalists picketing and holding signs that read “honk if you love local news.”
Members of the Fort Worth NewsGuild have been striking for nearly two weeks against the paper’s parent company, McClatchy, for alleged unfair labor practices and demands for a fair contract. On the first day of striking, McClatchy revoked the healthcare benefits of staff members and posted job applications to fill their positions.
Based on the Dec. 8 bargaining session — the first since the strike began — the union leadership isn’t confident workers will return to their jobs any time soon. The NewsGuild submitted 16 proposals for consideration at the beginning of the session.
Company representatives considered the NewsGuild’s proposals in a private caucus for more than three hours, but came back with only one change to existing McClatchy proposals, according to a tweet from bargaining chair and Star-Telegram investigative reporter Emily Brindley.
“Clownery. Absolute clownery,” Brindley tweeted.
The NewsGuild’s bargaining team said McClatchy changed wording around severance pay calculation from “pro-rated” to “rounded up,” which was agreed upon last bargaining session.
Members of the union are disappointed but not surprised, Kaley Johnson, Star-Telegram reporter who serves as vice president of the Fort Worth NewsGuild said in a statement. McClatchy reps spent most of bargaining time in caucus and failed to make any movement on proposals, she said. She said countless news stories have gone uncovered during the strike.
“We care about this community,” Johnson said. “McClatchy does not. We will keep fighting until we get a fight contract, with livable working conditions.”
Steve Coffman, the newspaper’s president and editor, said in an emailed statement that the newspaper is serving communities in North Texas and Tarrant County.
“We continue to bargain in good faith and look forward to reaching an agreement,” Coffman wrote.
The Fort Worth NewsGuild filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint in August. The union also has two other pending complaints against McClatchy that are awaiting a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board – one for repudiation/modification of a contract and another for refusal to furnish information.
Since the start of the strike, the union has raised $39,434 in funds to pay striking staff members and received public support from U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democrat who represents part of Tarrant County. State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, and Fort Worth City Council member Chris Nettles have also donated to the strike fund.
State Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, wrote a public letter announcing that he’s suspending his subscription to the newspaper and urged others to do the same until employees have “gotten their due.”
“These types of hardline tactics should have no place in our city,” Romero wrote. “We all deserve a living wage and a fair shake from our employer.”
Johnson said the union’s intent is to strike until the company begins to make more compromises on proposals related to parental leave, retirement and minimum wage floors, among others. She said the union has been reaching out to McClatchy since the beginning of the strike.
“We were making ourselves available to every possible time slot,” Johnson said. “And they refuse to move at all.”
The strike coincides with protests in other newsrooms such as The New York Times and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
This story has been updated with a comment from Steve Coffman.