Newsroom employees at The Columbian voted Thursday to join a union to collectively bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions at the newspaper.
Just over 70 percent of 27 nonmanagement reporters, photographers, copy editors, page designers and newsroom assistants indicated they wish to be represented in collective bargaining by the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.
The local bargaining group is called The Columbian Guild.
The voting was conducted in a secret ballot overseen by a representative of the National Labor Relations Board. The final vote was 19 in favor of joining the union, eight opposed.
“We’re just really excited and looking forward to working with the company on this,” Katie Gillespie, a reporter and member of the union organizing committee, said after the results were announced.
Gillespie said guild members will come together in the next few days to determine their next steps in advance of contract talks with The Columbian, which has been owned and operated by the Campbell family since 1921.
“We’re looking forward to working with management to draw up a contract that will make The Columbian sustainable for both the Campbells and their employees,” reporter Calley Hair, also a member of the organizing committee, said in a statement released by the guild.
Publisher Scott Campbell said the company does not anticipate any immediate changes to the newspaper’s operation as a result of the unionization drive.
“As we have said throughout this process, we will follow the law and bargain in good faith with the union’s representatives to reach a contract that is fair and equitable to all parties,” Campbell said in a written statement.
“We want to work with all our employees, in every department, to continue to produce excellent local journalism for Southwest Washington,” Campbell said. “We believe our community begins here.”
The unionization effort was initiated by newsroom employees earlier this year, according to Brad Sherman, administrative officer for the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild in Seattle. A group of employees declared their intent on Sept. 30, starting a process that culminated in Thursday’s vote.
At the time, they released a mission statement saying they intend to bargain for “equitable wages, greater diversity in the workplace, reasonable leave and health benefits, earned severance, and a fair and consistent grievance policy.”
The nonmanagement newsroom workers will be represented by the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild – Local 37082 of The NewsGuild, a sector of the Communications Workers of America. Gillespie said union dues will not be collected until the union has reached a contract agreement with the newspaper.
A statement released by The Columbian Guild noted that the local unionization drive is part of a larger movement toward organized labor among newspaper workers.
It said a union was also approved Thursday at a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., while votes were still being tallied in a unionization drive at the Miami Herald. Additionally, The Los Angeles Times Guild ratified its first contract on Thursday after 15 months of contract talks.