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Kansas City Star Voluntarily Recognizes Newsroom Union

One month after announcing an organizing campaign, newsroom employees at the Kansas City Star have won recognition for their union.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
One month after announcing an organizing campaign, newsroom employees at the Kansas City Star have won recognition for their union.

McClatchy Co. accepted a request from newsroom employees to recognize the Kansas City News Guild, which will cover more than 40 employees.

Updated: June 2, 2021 at 8:20 PM CDT
This story has been updated to include the comments of
Jeff Gordon, regional vice president of the News Guild.

One month after announcing an organizing campaign, newsroom employees at the Kansas City Star have won recognition for their union.

The newspaper’s owner, McClatchy Co., told staff during an online meeting Wednesday that it would voluntarily recognize the Kansas City News Guild.

“We have a long history of working collaboratively in this newsroom to support strong local journalism,” Kansas City Star president and editor Mike Fannin told the newspaper. “Our shared efforts have resulted in vital work that has made the communities we serve better and more accountable.”

Union leaders said in Maythat an “overwhelming majority of eligible staffers” signed cards supporting the guild’s formation. The Kansas City News Guild will represent more than 40 employees, including reporters, sports writers, photographers and other visual journalists; editors and editorial board members are excluded.

“We felt we needed to have some sort of representation going forward, because that's what the future of the company and for our own jobs, but also for what we see as the need for a strong newspaper in Kansas City,” said Mike Hendricks, a veteran investigative reporter and a union organizer at the Star.

Unionization of newsroom employees has become a national trend. The Star’s longtime owner McClatchy declared bankruptcy last year before being sold to the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management. Several other McClatchy newsrooms, including the Miami Herald, Idaho Statesman, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, have also unionized.

“We prize the work of all our colleagues, and today, we are recognizing the Kansas City News Guild,” Fannin said. “Together, we can move forward with the mission of elevating our staff, our strategies and our journalism.”

Jeff Gordon, regional vice president of the News Guild, said now was a frightening time for journalists and "we’ve seen across the country journalists turn to the guild for help."

“The news guild has worked with newspaper companies trying to get economic support from the federal government," he said. "It’s also worked to get local owners where possible to buy newspapers and really has worked on every angle possible to try to keep this industry going.”

The Star joins the Lawrence Journal World, Springfield News Leader and St. Louis Post-Dispatch among newspapers where employees have joined the News Guild.

If McClatchy had not voluntarily recognized the union, Star employees would have needed to hold a union election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

Hendricks said there is no singular issue the Guild aims to remedy; rather, the goal is to get a seat at the table and continue a collaborative relationship with management.

“We’ll address everything from pay equity, to benefits, to work rules, etc.,” Hendricks said.

The Star union will become a unit of the NewsGuild-CWA, the nation’s largest union for journalists and other news industry employees. The News Guild is a sector of the Communication Workers of America, representing about 24,000 journalists.

Hendricks said the Guild’s next step is to formally organize by electing officers and shop stewards.

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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