This is part of a series highlighting the efforts of organized labor and featured in Labor 411’s print directories. Click here to order your copy and support Labor 411!
By Oren Peleg
For over 130 years, the Los Angeles Times has been a leading source of breaking news, entertainment, sports, politics and more. Now its journalists are leading the charge to significantly better working conditions.
Spurred on by the Los Angeles Times Guild Organizing Committee, last January the daily newspaper’s staff voted to form a union for the first time with a resounding 248 to 44 vote—85% Yes! The Times’ staff is in the process of forming a union with the NewsGuild, the national organization that represents the workforce of industry titans like The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and many others.
This was no small feat. Going back to its first publisher, the Times had a long history of anti-union sentiment. That checkered past made the groundbreaking result even sweeter for guild organizers like Kristina Bui, a multiplatform editor with the Times. As one might expect, Bui and her fellow organizers were met with staunch resistance by the Times’ former parent company in the months leading up to the election, starting with the ousting of top editors and the hiring of a new editor-in-chief.
“And, of course, the company ran an anti-union campaign based on the usual tired talking points,” Bui said. “These challenges required a lot of one-on-one conversations with our co-workers, building trust and solidarity among ourselves despite the upheaval and messaging we were getting from the top. But, in a demonstration of how the boss is often the best organizer, I think these challenges also helped strengthen our resolve.”
Bui and her fellow organizers are taking that strengthened resolve, channeling it into action and achieving results. They’re making steady progress in negotiations on their first contract, including recently reaching a tentative agreement on newsroom diversity protections.
“But we still have to address other issues that were key to our organizing campaign: Better pay, layoff protections and severance, protections for our journalistic integrity,” she said. “We’re getting there though, one step at a time.”