Three weeks after reporters at VTDigger.org went public with a union drive, the nonprofit behind the online news site has agreed to recognize the newly formed VTDigger Guild.
In a statement posted to VTDigger.org late Tuesday, founder and editor Anne Galloway announced that the Vermont Journalism Trust had recognized the guild and was "prepared to engage in negotiations that will strengthen the mission of VTDigger."
Education reporter Lola Duffort, a member of the union's organizing committee, hailed the decision by management. "This is great news, and I'm really proud to work at Digger," she said in an interview. "We are trying to create a model for sustainable nonprofit news, and our employers showed they believe that's absolutely compatible with creating a good workplace for employees."
According to Duffort, lawyers for the nonprofit and the union reached an agreement this week over the bargaining unit's membership. Two non-supervisory editors were deemed eligible and one fellow was deemed ineligible. In total, eighteen newsroom employees will now be represented by the Guild, which is affiliated with the NewsGuild and its parent organization, the Communications Workers of America. The group includes reporters, photographers, interns and staff columnists.
When the Vermont Journalism Trust agreed to voluntarily recognize the union through the card check process, the Guild withdrew its petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board, according to both sides.
"It was not contentious," Duffort said of the negotiations. "It was very respectful the entire time."
Reached by phone Wednesday, Galloway said her written statement "pretty well speaks for itself." She added, "We're eager to get to work on further cementing VTDigger's position as Vermont's leading news site and as a place where employees can thrive and do their best work."
When Seven Days attempted to ask follow-up questions, Galloway called it "a personnel matter" and hung up the phone.
The union has yet to begin negotiating a contract with management, but Duffort said Guild members were "eager" to do so. They had previously expressed a desire for better and more consistent pay, benefits and time off. According to Duffort, she and her colleagues recognize that the news outlet faces financial stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. In March, VTDigger laid off three full- and part-time employees.
"A lot of what we asked for will be conditioned on what the financial picture of Digger looks like and what we can or can't count on," Duffort said. "There's a lot of uncertainty in this context."