From NWLabourPress.org, Sept. 20
By Don McIntosh
Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild announced Sept. 7 that it’s done with The Columbian. The paper’s management had said most remaining news room workers no longer want to be union-represented, and the union did a quick count and agreed. Since October 2019—when the workers voted 19-8 to unionize—most union supporters have been laid off or quit, and the newsroom has shrunk from 28 employees to 13.
Workers never got a union contract, despite more than 15 months of bargaining. Guild representative Katie Gillespie, a former Columbian reporter herself, says it became clear The Columbian never intended to reach agreement.
“They’ve been surface bargaining from the time we first sat at the table,” Gillespie told the Labor Press. Surface bargaining is labor law parlance for going through the motions—meeting, but never meaningfully negotiating. That’s illegal under federal labor law because it violates the law’s requirement that an employer bargain in good faith, which means negotiating with the intent of reaching agreement. Even though the union no longer represents the group, an open investigation continues by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) into whether The Columbian broke the law in this case.
The Columbian pays reporters as little as $17 an hour. Workers unionized in the first place hoping to win a more equitable and transparent pay system.
(Note: Seattle-based Dick’s Drive-Ins recently announced they’d make $19/hour their starting wage.)