More Than 200 Staffers With Chicago Tribune and 6 Other Newsrooms Begin 24-Hour Strike

In this April 12, 2006, file photo, flags wave near the Chicago Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast, File)In this April 12, 2006, file photo, flags wave near the Chicago Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — More than 200 reporters, photographers and other staffers with the Chicago Tribune and six other newsrooms around the nation began a 24-hour strike Thursday to protest years of “slow-walked” contract negotiations and to demand fair wages.

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The strike, which includes 76 members of the Chicago Tribune reporting staff, photographers and some editors, began at 5 a.m., said Caroline Kubzansky, a member of the Chicago Tribune Guild who is a general assignment reporter for the newspaper.

It is the latest recent strike in the U.S. news industry. The striking workers are employees of Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund that has been buying up newspapers across the country and facing criticism for slashing budgets and cutting jobs.

The NewsGuild-CWA, which represents the employees, said the workers participating in the 24-hour strike are demanding fair wages and that management not eliminate their 401(k) match benefits. It said the staffers “have been fighting for a contract through their unions for as long as five years.”

The walkout “is the single largest coordinated action journalists at the company have taken against Alden Global Capital since the hedge fund purchased Tribune Publishing in 2021, in a deal that saddled Tribune Publishing with $278 million in debt,” The NewsGuild-CWA said Wednesday in a news release.

The union said cuts imposed by Alden Global Capital have “gutted newsrooms” and included cutting the Chicago Tribune’s staff from 111 to 76 people since June 2021. Those cuts “have hurt journalists’ ability to provide quality public information and hold power to account,” The NewsGuild-CWA said.

The union’s president, Jon Schleuss, said Alden Global Capital is a corporate hedge fund that’s “full of so much greed” and is “hellbent on destroying America’s newsrooms.”

“They are siphoning out all the money off of the backs of all of these journalists who are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said during a Thursday news briefing on the strike. “The corporate greed in media is out of control, and hedge funds are at the core of that corporate greed.”

An email message seeking comment on the strike was sent to Mitch Pugh, the Chicago Tribune’s executive editor, who replied that all inquiries should be directed to Goldin Solutions. A message seeking comment was sent by The Associated Press to Goldin Solutions on Thursday morning.

The one-day strike comes at a tumultuous time for media outlets, an increasing number of which are owned by billionaires and have recently been hit by layoffs. Last week, Time magazine and Conde Nast, the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and other marquee magazines, both announced significant job cuts.

The Los Angeles Times also said last week that it would lay off at least 115 employees — more than 20% of the newsroom — in one of the largest staff cuts in the newspaper’s 143-year history. And in late 2023, more than 200 workers at The Washington Post, owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, accepted buyouts.

An estimated 2,681 news industry jobs were lost through the end of November 2023, according to the employment firm of Challenger, Gray and Christmas. That was more than the full years of 2022 and 2021.

Aside from the Chicago Tribune and four sister newspapers in the Chicago suburbs, some of the other striking workers include staffers with the Orlando Sentinel; The Morning Call, of Allentown, Pennsylvania; The Virginian-Pilot; the Daily Press, of Virginia; the Virginia Gazette; and the Tidewater Review, according to The NewsGuild-CWA.

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