The staff of the Miami New Times, Miami’s alt-weekly, and the Phoenix New Times announced Tuesday their desire to be union shops, joining a nationwide unionization wave across print-digital news outlets.
“We do this work because we love it and because we know that our independent voices are vital to Miami and Phoenix,” says the mission statement for the union effort, called Voice Media Guild. “But we often find that we do this work in spite of low pay and substandard benefits, constant pressure to bring in clicks, inconsistent mandates from management, steady turnover, and insecurity about the future.
“Alt-weeklies are a dying breed. The media landscape is shrinking locally and nationally. We don’t want our communities to lose the critical and distinct perspectives the alternative press provides. If we want to maintain and strengthen our presence, it’s critical we invest in ourselves.”
Miami New Times staff writer Jerry Iannelli said, “I started four years ago. [Unionization] always has been tossed around as idle chatter. We felt like, at a certain point, it’s something we had to do. Decisions about the company were being made without any consultation with the people doing the work.”
Voice Media Guild requested voluntary recognition by the outlets’ owner, Denver-based Voice Media Group, which also owns New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Alt-weeklies facing the same economic challenges as mainstream media have suffered similar staffing slashes along with closings (most notably, New York’s The Village Voice).
Iannelli said former full-time positions of arts reporter, music reporter, clubs editor, art director and assistant art director, key positions for an alt-weekly expected to be on the cutting edge of the local arts and nightlife scenes, are now part-time positions or eliminated.
“It feels like we’re cutting the meat off the bone,” Iannelli said. “Now, our entire art team is part time or contract employees.”
Voice Media Guild would be part of the NewsGuild-CWA, the national union that includes One Herald Guild, which represents the combined staffs of the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and Miami.com. One Herald Guild gained recognition by election in November.