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Kansas City Star Journalists Announce Efforts To Unionize

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Mike Hendricks, a veteran investigative reporter at the Kansas City Star, says journalists at the Star felt that aligning with the NewsGuild-CWA would protect the future of the newspaper. He is posing in his office with a T-shirt and logo designed by his son.

About 40 members of the newsroom at the Star are looking to align with NewsGuild-CWA, the latest additions to a growing union push across media.

Journalists at the Kansas City Star have announced a campaign to form a union.

Around 40 newsroom employees, excluding editors and editorial board members, have presented the Star's management with a request for voluntary recognition as the Kansas City News Guild.

Veteran investigative reporter Mike Hendricks is one of the organizers of the guild. He said the group’s formation comes in response to the newspaper owner’s bankruptcy filing last year and the uncertainty of the Star's future.

“We didn't know what was going to happen with the paper either with our jobs or with the direction of the newspaper,” Hendricks said. “And we thought it'd be good to have a seat at the table.”

The journalists publicly announced the guild's formation on Monday morning, saying that an "overwhelming majority of eligible staffers" signed cards declaring their intentions to organize under the group.

The movement toward unionization is part of a national trend in media. The Star was owned by the McClatchy Company, a historic publisher that declared bankruptcy last February before being sold to the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management. Journalists at several McClatchy newspapers, including the Miami Herald, Idaho Statesman, and Ft. Worth Star Telegram, have formed guilds of their own.

Hendricks said they notified the paper’s president and editor Mike Fannin about the guild's formation. He said they had a cordial conversation, but Fannin would not offer a specific response yet.

Fannin did not immediately return KCUR’s request for an interview.

Hendricks said they are giving the Star a week to voluntarily recognize the organization. If not, they will move forward with a union election with the National Labor Relations board to officially sign with the NewsGuild-CWA. The organization represents 24,000 journalists and other communication professionals in North America.

Glenn Rice, a breaking news reporter at the Star, said the formation of the guild has been in the works for a while.

“There’s a sense of celebration,” he said. “We’re breathing a collective sigh of relief.”

Rice added that one of the guild's goals is to level the playing field for members — including fair wages and benefits — as well as provide a positive environment for a new and diversifying workforce.

“The newsroom should be a place where all are valued and have a voice in the future of the company," the organizing committee said in a statement.

“We’re part of this community," Hendricks added, "and want to see The Star and Kansas City continue to thrive.”

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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