LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Tuesday journalists with the Courier Journal announced they are unionizing. Spectrum News interviewed Olivia Krauth, the Louisville newspaper’s education reporter, who said there are enough votes to form the union, should Courier Journal’s parent company Gannett not voluntarily recognize the union. 

What You Need To Know

  • On Tuesday, Courier Journal journalists announced they are unionizing

  • A Twitter thread with the announcement cited unpaid furloughs to listing the newspaper’s building for sale as some reasons to unionize

  • To form the union, Courier Journal’s parent company Gannett has to voluntarily recognize the union or eligible employees have to vote for it

  • Courier Journal reporter Olivia Krauth told Spectrum News there are enough votes to form a union

On display in Olivia Krauth’s Louisville apartment are three framed articles written over the course of her career.

“This one is my first ever article that published at [the University of Louisville] student newspaper,” Krauth said, while pointing to the article headlined Student Project Helps Commemorate 50th Anniversary March in Washington.

The 27-year-old is the Courier Journal’s education reporter. Another article framed on her wall is a story she wrote with a colleague that was part of a multi-part series on the history of bussing students in Jefferson County Public Schools. 

“This was the investigation, and this was the result last June,” Krauth said, pointing to the third article framed on the wall titled Vote puts an end to forced school busing.

Despite strong reporting, Krauth told Spectrum News that corporate cutbacks by the Courier Journal’s parent company Gannett, a massive newspaper publisher which also owns USA Today, has affected the newspaper. 

“I think that hurts our journalism. I’m not saying that we don’t produce strong journalism. I mean, we won a Pulitzer [Prize] a few years ago, but I think we can do way more with more resources, more people,” she said.

Krauth said the work on Tuesday’s public announcement, that Courier Journal employees want to form a union, started in August last year. The journalists wanting to unionize are collectively called the Courier Journal Guild.

Krauth said she is not part of the organizing committee, but, as one member wanting to form the union, she is pitching in by writing the Courier Journal Guild’s threads on its Twitter account.

Krauth said an issue that is top of mind for her right now is employee retention — between layoffs, buyouts, or reporters leaving the Courier Journal for jobs that offer higher pay. 

“They don’t wanna be here, and no one is trying to get them to stay here, and when we don’t hire for those roles or we don’t hire quick enough, all that extra work falls back on people who stay and that makes it more difficult and the cycle kind of continues,” Krauth explained.

In the Courier Journal Guild’s tweet on Tuesday announcing the plan to unionize, a list of reasons were given, from unpaid furloughs to listing the Courier Journal’s building for sale

In mid-August, Gannettt announced layoffs at multiple newspapers it owns, including the Courier Journal. The previous week, Gannett reported total revenue for the company decreased 6.9% compared to the second quarter of 2021. 

Besides announcing its plan to unionize, the Courier Journal Guild also tweeted what it would like from Gannett, which included:

  • Create a system of pay raises to reward institutional knowledge and commitment to Louisville
  • Ensure all salaries are equitable, fair and livable
  • Drop the paywall on stories in the public’s interest, including those on natural disasters and COVID-19

According to the National Relations Labor Board (NRLB), there are two ways to form a union. An employer can voluntarily recognize a union or if at least 30% of workers formally state they want a union, the NLRB will conduct an election. If a majority of those who vote choose the union, the NLRB will certify the union as the representative for collective bargaining. 

Spectrum News asked Gannett for an interview. Instead, this statement was emailed on behalf of Amy Garrard with the Gannett Labor Relations Counsel.

“We respect the right of employees at the Courier Journal to make a fully informed choice for themselves whether to unionize or not unionize. Gannett strongly supports the National Labor Relations Board’s election process and has always participated in that process fairly and in good faith. Central to that process is a democratic election in which every employee’s voice is heard.”

If the union is formed, the Courier Journal Guild will join the Indianapolis NewsGuild Local 34070, which is union for the for The Indianapolis Star newspaper, another Gannett-owned paper. Local 34070 is part of The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA), which is a labor union founded by newspaper journalists in 1933.

Brittany Carloni is a reporter with The Indianapolis Star, and she is a Local 34070 member who is also a paid part-time organizer with TNG-CWA who is helping the Courier Journal Guild unionize.

Carloni has been working with Courier Journal union organizers since August last year. She said even though only a simple majority vote in favor to unionize is needed to form the union, the Courier Journal Guild has been working on gaining a supermajority.

“Because when you win an election with just a simple majority that gives Gannett a lot of power to say like, ‘Half of the newsroom didn’t want this,’ and so we work to get a super majority because that is so powerful,” Carloni told Spectrum News.

When Spectrum News asked Krauth if the Courier Journal Guild already has a majority of votes in favor of unionizing, she confirmed they did. This means the Courier Journal Guild could be formally recognized as a union before the end of this year. 

If a union is formally recognized, TNG-CWA stated in a press release there will be about 35 newsroom employees, from early career reporters to veteran journalists, that will make up the Courier Journal Guild.