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Union busted: Plain Dealer to lay off last four union journalists, will offer them non-union jobs

Plain Dealer building
Posted at 6:00 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 10:16:22-04

CLEVELAND — The last of the Plain Dealer's union journalists, four to be exact, will lose their jobs on Friday. They will be offered employment at non-union cleveland.com while the editor of the paper decamps for a corporate gig. According to the Plain Dealer News Guild, the guild itself will be dissolved on Sunday.

The guild says that the four employees will have the opportunity to take jobs at the website, which will now be providing all of the content that appears in the newspaper.

Plain Dealer Editor Tim Warsinskey wrote in a column Tuesday that he was excited about the opportunity to become the senior editor of special projects for Advance Local, the out-of-state company that owns cleveland.com.

"Our ethos at The Plain Dealer during my four years as managing editor and a brief tenure as editor has been to focus on journalism that makes Northeast Ohio a better place for us to live, and help readers discover and celebrate better ways to live in it," Warsinskey wrote.

You can read Warsinskey's entire column here.

RELATED: Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper staff told they can no longer cover Cleveland

The Plain Dealer News Guild said that this is something that has been in the works for years.

"The company started down this road in 2013 with this clear end goal – to get rid of the union. The Guild hoped the company would see the value of the work our members provided and the deep connections and trust we built in the community as a way to strengthen journalism in Greater Cleveland," the guild said. "Instead, it chose to systematically squeeze the Guild out of existence. It was excruciating for those laid off over the past year and our members who remained to be kept in limbo."

RELATED: Cleveland Plain Dealer cutting 22 jobs

You can read the full statement provided by The Plain Dealer News Guild on Tuesday afternoon:

After more than 80 years of union membership, Plain Dealer journalists will no longer be represented by the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild Local 1.

The unit will be dissolved effective May 17. The Plain Dealer newsroom will no longer exist.

On May 15, The Plain Dealer will lay off the four remaining reporters, and they have been offered jobs at clevelanddotcom. The members will be entitled to their earned benefits, including severance pay, whether they accept those jobs or not.

The company started down this road in 2013 with this clear end goal – to get rid of the union. The Guild hoped the company would see the value of the work our members provided and the deep connections and trust we built in the community as a way to strengthen journalism in Greater Cleveland.

Instead, it chose to systematically squeeze the Guild out of existence. It was excruciating for those laid off over the past year and our members who remained to be kept in limbo.

The job of the Guild, or of any union, is to work for the best interests of its members, even in times when those decisions chafe at the ideals we hold dear – that workers deserve a seat at the table.

The Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild will continue to represent about 130 members at the Akron Beacon Journal, the Canton Repository and the Massillon Independent.

As a part of an agreement, the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild agreed to not participate in organizing efforts to organize clevelanddotcom for one year, though other local unions and The NewsGuild, which represents journalists across the country, still can exercise those rights.

The Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild encourages them to do so, as 44 other publications with 2,500 employees have in the past two-and-a-half years, including at Advance-owned outlets like Wired, Pitchfork and The New Yorker.

Twenty years ago, The Plain Dealer had more than 340 journalists. In its heyday, it had even more. Today, it has four. Advance and The Plain Dealer have slashed the newsroom while creating a separate nonunion newsroom, clevelanddotcom.

The end of the unit, as unionization is picking up at other media companies across the country, is a sad moment in Cleveland history. Its imprint on the newsroom, and city, has been invaluable in the last century.

Those who came before us bargained, picketed and went on strike over the decades for fair wages and benefits, worker safety and racial and gender equality. They also fought for free speech and objective coverage, protecting not just themselves but their readers.

The Plain Dealer News Guild’s ranks have included Pulitzer Prize winners; Jane Scott, the groundbreaking rock’n’ roll reporter who was also a tireless union supporter and inspiration for female journalists everywhere; Dennis Kucinich, who became mayor and congressman; famed Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas; and thousands of others whose names might not have made headlines but who doggedly and tirelessly worked to cover the city of Cleveland and its people and places for more than 80 years.

To those Guild members who came before us: We are sorry. To the city and people of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio: We will miss you. We did our best.

RELATED: The last days of the Plain Dealer (Columbia Journalism Review)

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