Journalists at Phoenix New Times have announced they intend to unionize, the latest in a string of newsroom unionization efforts both in Arizona and across the country.
The journalists at the Phoenix alt-weekly, which began publishing in 1970, are partnering with their colleagues at Miami New Times to form Voice Media Guild, a unit of the NewsGuild-CWA, which represents journalists across the country.
Both newspapers are owned by Voice Media Group, which is based in Denver.
“In recent years, Voice Media Group journalists have experienced sudden layoffs, constant turnover, and other obstacles to producing the groundbreaking news and culture coverage they are known for,” the organizers said in a statement announcing the unionization.
Our small and scrappy teams consistently break news and keep our readers up to date on where to eat, catch live shows, and see groundbreaking art. #VMGGuild
— VMG Guild 🖇 (@VMGGuild) January 21, 2020
The union organizers say they have already received the support of a majority of reporters, editors and designers at the two papers, and have asked VMG for voluntary recognition.
“Too often, our work conditions undermine the talents of our writers and editors instead of nurturing them,” said Elizabeth Whitman, a Phoenix New Times reporter and a member of the organizing committee. “We are tired of being ignored or dismissed when we ask for fair compensation and treatment or offer suggestions in good faith to ensure that we can continue writing powerful and important stories.”
The unionization effort is seeking better pay and benefits for journalists, as well as protections from future layoffs and more say in newsroom decisions.
“We want to attract talent from all walks of life who feel like they have the option of a long and sustainable career. That’s not possible when the most common point of entry is a fellowship paying $500 a week,” the organizers wrote.
Meg O’Connor, a staff writer for Phoenix New Times, told Arizona Mirror that the paper’s editorial staff presented Editor David Hudnall – who took over leadership of the paper at the start of 2020 – with a letter announcing the unionization effort. She said Hudnall’s response was “pretty positive,” but that staff is waiting to see what VMG corporate leadership will say.
The Phoenix newsroom consists of about a dozen full- and part-time editorial staff.
The New Times unionization comes on the heels of a similar effort at The Arizona Republic last year. In October, journalists at the state’s largest daily newspaper voted overwhelmingly to form a union.
Republic journalists are also represented by NewsGuild-CWA.