By MALLORY GRUBEN
Newsroom workers at the Bend Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman are on track to become Oregon’s second group of union journalists. The two publications are owned by EO Media Group, a private family-owned publishing company that runs 15 newspapers and two magazines in Oregon. The Bulletin is a daily newspaper that covers Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson counties. The Spokesman is a weekly newspaper covering the City of Redmond. Because their coverage area overlaps, articles and photos from workers at one paper often appear in the other.
At least 11 of the 14 reporters, photographers, and news assistants at the two papers signed union cards asking for the NewsGuild to represent them. Newly formed Central Oregon NewsGuild would be part of the NewsGuild, a division of Communication Workers of America.
On Oct. 23, workers delivered letters to EO executives asking for voluntary recognition. The company declined, so the next day the NewsGuild asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election. No date has been set yet. If the vote shows majority support for the union, it would be the second in Oregon to represent newsroom workers; the Eugene NewsGuild represents journalists at Gannett-owned Register-Guard.
Redmond Spokesman reporter Joe Siess said he wants to unionize so workers can bargain for pay raises. Workers say employees average $21 an hour in the two newsrooms, while Zillow says the median monthly rent in Bend is $2,500, nearly two-thirds of the average worker’s gross wage.
“We simply don’t make enough money,” Siess said. “We’ve watched many of our colleagues leave … and it was very discouraging to watch some great journalists have to leave simply because they can’t afford to live here any longer.”
Like many of his coworkers, Siess said he is repaying the student loans he took out to earn his journalism degree. He has a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, one of the top journalism schools in the nation.
Siess and his coworkers hope through unionizing to make journalism a sustainable career, so they can continue to serve Central Oregon with reliable and in-depth reporting.
“The point of this isn’t to be combative with (EO Media Group),” he said. “It’s just to have a seat at the table.”