Chicago Tribune gives card-check recognition to Chicago News Guild
Chicago Tribune Building on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. | Adam Jones, Ph.D. / Wikimedia Commons

CHICAGO—With apologies to the late, great Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich: “The million-to-one shot came in. Hell froze over. A month of Sundays hit the calendar.” And Chicago Tribune management agreed to card-check recognition of the Chicago News Guild to represent the paper’s 235 workers.

Povich actually wrote that hell-froze-over lead when journeyman hurler Don Larsen pitched his perfect game for the New York Yankees in baseball’s 1956 World Series. Card-check recognition for the union at the Tribune is its equivalent in the newspaper world.

Other papers have been anti-union, including the Los Angeles Times, which the Tribune’s parent firm sold just weeks after workers unionized with the News Guild earlier this year. Almost none matched the Tribune. But management had little choice: More than 85 percent of the workers signed NLRB union election authorization cards.

For its 171-year history, the Tribune, Chicago’s dominant newspaper, has been virulently anti-worker and anti-union. In its heyday under imperious owner Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the paper was a bastion and a power in the Republican Party, the voice of isolationism, and an unrelenting foe of FDR, workers, unions and minorities.

Indeed, the McCormick era at the paper was so anti-everything that Roosevelt almost brought the paper up on aiding the enemy charges when the Tribune once published Allied troop movements in advance of a campaign during World War II.

McCormick, his heirs and the financiers and syndicates who owned the paper and its parent firm, the Tribune Company, now called Tronc, maintained that attitude. One of them, real estate mogul Sam Zell, ran the paper and the company into the ground, having to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Ironically, the McCormick heirs’ trust is still battling some of the succeeding financiers in court.

The current group of financiers owning the paper is just as bad – the L.A. Times’ workers circulated data showing how the group’s chairman used fancy private planes for questionable trips nationwide — and that led to the Tribune organizing drive and now to card-check recognition, the Guild said.

The 235 workers will be in three bargaining units, one representing reporters, editors, designers, columnists, photographers and others at the paper itself and its RedEye cultural and entertainment affiliate, one for workers at its suburban and neighborhood papers, and a third in Tribune’s new design and production studio.

“We did it. In response to the overwhelming strength of our newsrooms, Tronc agreed this weekend to voluntarily recognize the Chicago Tribune Guild,” union organizers wrote to their co-workers on May 6. “This is an extraordinary development that has evolved quickly.

“In the face of pernicious corporate influence on our industry, we need a better way to advocate for our work, protect the future of our and the next generation’s journalism careers and strengthen our coverage of Chicago and its suburban communities. We also know this is only the first step.”

Besides the Tribune and the L.A. Times, the News Guild, a CWA sector, racked up wins at several other publications in this year alone. They include the Missoula, Mont., Independent, and The New Republic. The Chicago Guild also reached and workers ratified a first contract at the People’s World.

“There is a rebellion brewing in newsrooms around the country,” said News Guild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer. “The journalists of the Chicago Tribune reflect that. Their fate and the fate of their publications is in their own hands. Workers are demanding quality journalism and quality jobs.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.