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Chalkbeat’s newsroom staff forms a union

Chalkbeat logo and The Chalkbeat Guild logo and a pencil and notebook against a white background.

Dear readers,

Earlier this month, Chalkbeat’s editorial staff reached out to let me know they wanted to form a union — the Chalkbeat Guild. They asked me to voluntarily recognize their decision. When I said yes, I felt the chill of making history together.

Will it be weird for our leaders to sit at a (virtual) bargaining table with people normally known for reporting about bargaining tables? Yes. Will it advance Chalkbeat’s vision of better, more equitable schools through excellent local journalism? My hope is another wholehearted yes. 

The Chalkbeat Guild is a passionate group, deeply committed to Chalkbeat’s mission and values. We share the Guild’s optimism that this change will continue to strengthen Chalkbeat and our pursuit of the strong, independent local press that is required to ensure every child has access to a quality education.

Below is the Chalkbeat Guild’s full statement to form a union, which I am excited to share at this important juncture. We have a really big mission here. To fulfill it, we need the full commitment of our readers, our supporters, and our team. The new Chalkbeat Guild is one more way to formalize our team’s commitment, not just today but long into the future.

Elizabeth Green

Introducing the Chalkbeat Guild

The reporters, story editors, engagement team, and visuals staff at Chalkbeat are excited to announce that we have formed a union with the Writers Guild of America, East. 

We are thrilled to take this step in concert with Chalkbeat management, which swiftly recognized our union. We believe that every child deserves an excellent education and that sustaining vital newsrooms is crucial to that mission. 

As Chalkbeat continues to grow, it is imperative that those closest to the journalism we produce have a greater role in the decisions that affect us. Our decision to unionize and negotiate a contract reflects our desire to help strengthen this news organization. 

We are grateful for the work Chalkbeat’s leaders have done to build a financially sustainable model as newsrooms around the country struggle. We are invested in Chalkbeat as a nonprofit that fills local news gaps and prioritizes meaningful education journalism. We seek to protect what makes Chalkbeat great and push our organization to fulfill its mission. 

“We have a really big mission here,” said Chalkbeat CEO Elizabeth Green. “To fulfill it, we need the full commitment of our readers, our supporters, and our team. The Chalkbeat Guild is one more way to formalize our team’s commitment, not just today but long into the future.”

While Chalkbeat has invested in improving staff diversity, our bureaus remain largely unrepresentative of our communities. In a recent letter committing Chalkbeat to anti-racism, Elizabeth promised a serious effort to hire more people of color. As a union, we want to ensure this promise is fulfilled by establishing a stronger process to hire, protect, and retain employees from many underrepresented communities — including those who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and who come from a range of economic backgrounds.

As we grow our diverse workforce, it is crucial that pay be equitable and transparent. And while layoffs and furloughs are not expected in the immediate future, we hope to establish separation policies and equitable protections for our workers regardless of age.

Our teams have worked relentlessly during the COVID-19 crisis and our record readership shows how valuable our journalism is today. We recognize the need for flexibility in a field with unpredictable hours. But now more than ever, it is important that we establish reasonable protections so that employees do not burn out, but feel supported and stay long-term. 

We are excited that Chalkbeat continues to pursue opportunities to expand into new communities. Our shared goal is to ensure that independent and powerful journalism remains at the forefront of all that we do. We look forward to elevating the voices of those primarily responsible for producing the news as we explore new bureaus, revenue streams, and ways we reach our audiences. 

By developing our first contract, we are looking forward to building on our organization’s successes and having a larger role in solving our industry’s toughest challenges.

Contact the Guild at chalkbeatunion@gmail.com.

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