The Omaha World-Herald newsroom voted in favor of unionizing earlier this month—on which the Gateway reported first. The move should be seen as a milestone for journalists across the state, as this is the first unionized newsroom in Nebraska.
“For the first time in the World-Herald’s 133-year history, we were managed by people from outside Omaha,” said staff writer Henry Cordes. “That’s why I support this.”
In an interview with the Gateway, Cordes said that he was originally skeptical of unionizing. He only changed his stance after speaking with union representatives and analyzing the state of the newspaper.
“I supported this union to give Omaha a voice,” Cordes said.
Cordes wasn’t alone. The vote was a landslide with 71 pro-union ballots and only 5 opposing. This victory shouldn’t be taken lately. Anti-union sentiment has been widespread over the past several decades.
According to a Gallup research article published last August, union support is the highest its been in the past 15 years. Still, support does not guarantee high union membership. The same Gallup article notes that despite growing support, only 11 percent of American employees are unionized.
As a student journalist and a union supporter, the Omaha World-Herald Guild has given me real hope for the industry’s future. Journalism is a constantly channing field, and new technology has spurred even faster change. No one knows a newsroom like those who work in it every day. That’s exactly why those who make publications flourish should be guiding it into the future.
For those who aren’t journalists, unionized news organizations could mean less strings being pulled by ownership. Essentially, the public gets the high standard of news that they should expect.
Layoffs in the industry—particularly newspapers—are bound to continue. A union does not ensure that everyone keeps their jobs, but it can help ease the hard realities some workers must face.
Collective bargaining has been under attack for years—even just across the river. Iowa had a major collective bargaining reform that gutted union capabilities. The Des Moines Register reported on Iowa legislation that seriously limited the union rights of public sector workers. Attacks such as these are commonplace in some areas of the country.
So, what does all this mean for the average citizen? It means that unions are still viable. Despite decades of widespread anti-union rhetoric, a group like the World-Herald proves that workers can still unite in a single voice. Some lawmakers will continue to hammer away at collective bargaining rights, and it’s up to the working class to ensure that they don’t succeed.