By Don McIntosh
Nearly two years after journalists unionized at The Columbian, the Vancouver newspaper’s owner says most workers in the heavily downsized bargaining unit don’t want to be in the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild any more. That follows 21 months of supposed negotiations in which the paper’s chief negotiator—Nashville attorney Michael Zinser—stone-walled the union bargaining team. The Columbian refused to agree to any union proposal, and proposed to continue its current $17 an hour rate for all reporters, a rate that hasn’t increased in the last three years. The union proposed a starting wage of $20 an hour that would rise to $25 based on experience, plus annual cost-of-living increases.
Meanwhile, since Oct. 31, 2019, when the workers voted 19-8 to unionize, the newsroom has shrunk from 28 employees to 12.
“We condemn this shameful effort by management to bust our union,” said the Columbian Guild in response to The Columbian’s Aug. 16 request for a new union election.
“The Columbian has avoided engaging in meaningful bargaining over salaries, benefits, diversity and equity policies and more,” the union statement said. “The company’s conduct indicates it has never taken its employees’ concerns seriously, and that the paper’s management and ownership view the union as nothing more than an annoyance to be stamped out at any cost.”
The National Labor Relations Board hasn’t set a date for an election to determine whether most of the 12 remaining newsroom employees want to stay in the union, but most of the union’s core supporters have either been laid off or quit.