Tribune Publishing refuses to recognize Orlando Sentinel employee union, forcing election

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA SENTINEL GUILD/TWITTER
Photo via Sentinel Guild/Twitter
On Feb. 25, we reported news of Orlando Sentinel newsroom staffers forming a union to represent themselves in negotiations with their new majority owner, Manhattan hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

The move needed either voluntary approval by Tribune Publishing, the paper's parent company, or an election by the employees to make it official. Today, the Sentinel Guild announced that Tribune rejected their call for voluntary recognition, forcing them to take a vote.
click to enlarge SCREENSHOT VIA SENTINEL GUILD/TWITTER
Screenshot via Sentinel Guild/Twitter
"We have to go to the ballot box to make it clear that's what we're going to do," said Guild representative and Sentinel justice and safety reporter Cristóbal Reyes, when asked about the setback. "We knew going in this was probably going to happen. They have a mixed record of recognizing unions."

While not totally surprising, he says the move is disappointing because of the amount of support they've already secured.

"It's interesting because we came in with nearly 80 percent support," he said. "There are some holdouts, some people don't support it, and we're not entirely worried, but if we can win some new minds that would be great."

Reyes says support for the union has been evident in the newsroom.

"At work, we have signs all over the place and people show up to work wearing their [union] shirts, wearing their buttons. It's pretty clear what we're doing, once you walk into the newsroom."

Reyes says Sentinel management hasn't spoken to them about the union, and that no one has emailed about it.

"It's been a largely supportive environment," he says. "We're still strategizing on next actions, trying to get other local unions to show their support, with significant success."

In November, Alden – known in publishing as "the destroyer of newspapers" – disclosed it had become Tribune Publishing's largest shareholder, becoming majority owner of the Sentinel, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant and the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida. Within the week prior to the Sentinel Guild's initial announcement, several other Florida papers similarly formed unions, including the Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach Daily News and Naples Daily News.

The Sentinel employees' election is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 25, according to Reyes. He says the priority right now is making sure every eligible staffer knows and is prepared to participate.

"We're mostly just trying to make sure everybody is able to be counted that day. If you can't show up that day, or mail a ballot, it won't count."

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