By Julie Reynolds
Less than 12 hours after workers at the Loveland Reporter-Herald in Northern Colorado officially launched a union certification campaign, the paper’s publisher announced “they are suspending the pay cuts and furloughs that were introduced earlier this year, effective immediately,” staff members said on Twitter.
“This is a tremendous first victory for the guild and proof of the power that unionization efforts like ours have to effect real change,” the fledgling union Tweeted. “We can’t wait to accomplish more things for our newsroom and the community of Loveland.”
The century-old Loveland paper is owned by vulture hedge fund Alden Global Capital, whose MNG Enterprises chain also owns the Denver Post, St. Paul Pioneer Press, the San Jose Mercury News, Boston Herald, Orange County Register and others.
“The majority of our staff signed union cards,” said Jenny Sparks, a staff photographer who has worked at the Reporter-Herald for 19 years. “In the summer, we faced more rounds of pay cuts and furloughs.” The staff brainstormed, she said, “after so many years of so many cuts… and decided we could create some stability not only for our jobs but the paper itself.”
The workers announced they are organizing as the Heart of NoCo (Northern Colorado) NewsGuild, and are seeking to join the Denver Newspaper Guild, CWA Local 37074.
The Reporter-Herald is the only newspaper serving Loveland, a city that has grown in recent years to its current population of 80,000. It’s the second-largest city in Larimer County. Yet the paper’s newsroom has been cut dramatically, shrinking from eight reporters, two newsroom assistants and five full-time editors to only three reporters and two full-time editors, according to union organizers. The sports desk was cut from three employees to one, and the three positions in the photo department have also been reduced to one.
Sparks said her title was once photo editor, but now there are no other photographers left to oversee.
“We’re not even a whole ‘skeleton’ crew,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I had 25-30 people putting out my college paper.”
The workers had asked the paper’s publisher Al Manzi to voluntarily recognize the union.
Tony Mulligan of the Denver Newspaper Guild said the paper’s management didn’t respond to staff’s request for voluntary recognition by Thursday, so the next step is to file with the National Labor Relations Board for the right to hold an election.
Sparks said the effort gives her hope of having some job stability. “I’ve been at paper 19 years, and never once thought about quitting,” she said. She said workers just want stability and equity. “It’s not anything radical — we just want what some of our neighbors have in their workplaces.”
She said the group is also concerned about the future of journalism. “We want to make sure new, talented young journalists who come to us might say, ‘This is something I want to do.’”
Photo: Early morning at the 2018 Loveland Fire and Ice Festival, by Jared Winkler, Creative Commons.