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San Antonio Report journalists announce union effort, request voluntary recognition

The logo for the San Antonio Report Union. It depicts La Antorcha de la Amistad sculpture in the center flanked with two blue bonnets.
San Antonio Report Union
The San Antonio Report Union logo.

San Antonio Report’s publisher and CEO Angie Mock said in a statement on Tuesday that management moved toward voluntarily recognizing the San Antonio Report Union, which workers announced last week.

The union made an initial request to receive voluntary recognition by Jan. 18, two days after they announced the union, and were informed by management that they would not be recognized by then.

Mock said management needed more time last week to educate and prepare themselves for what the next steps would look like.

“We signaled a likelihood that we will voluntarily recognize the union as quickly as possible, and we are diligently working toward that end,” she said. “Communication with the union clearly outlines the dedication the team has in our shared goals of operating a sustainable newsroom that serves the community of San Antonio for many years to come. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.”

The union is organized with the Media Guild of the West, a local of The NewsGuild-CWA.

The San Antonio Report Union’s mission statement said the union is intended to safeguard the digital nonprofit newsroom into the future, and it pointed to several issues workers seek to address through a union contract.

Those issues include formal human resources practices, fair wages, regular raises, the enforcement of clear boundaries with donors, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts.

Bria Woods is a photojournalist at San Antonio Report. She said diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts were a big deal for a newsroom in a city like San Antonio, and one she thought San Antonio Report should pay more attention to.

“We are telling the stories of a predominantly Hispanic city and, currently, I’m the only Black woman photojournalist in San Antonio,” Woods said. “And my colleague Brenda is the only Latina photojournalist in San Antonio. So, you know, we’re hoping to see more real action and decisions being made, in terms of personnel, to reflect the city whose story we’re trying to tell every single day.”

She added that some of those decisions should relate to pay discrepancies journalists have discovered, especially as it relates to women of color.

Iris Dimmick, a senior reporter at San Antonio Report, said the union has 100% support within the 15-member newsroom staff. She explained that layoffs at another nonprofit digital newsroom last year pushed them to organize in earnest.

“Our efforts got more underway in the summer of last year after the Texas Tribune’s layoffs,” she said. “They laid off 10 or 11% of their workforce — of their newsroom — and that kind of kicked us in the butt a little bit. And many of us realized we don’t have any layoff protections.”

The San Antonio Report was founded in 2012, then called the Rivard Report, and began as a two-person blog. Since then, it has grown into a digital newsroom covering a wide array of issues in San Antonio.

Woods said it was unclear whether budget cuts, which management hinted at earlier in the month, would affect staff.

“The language that has been used to convey that to us has been conservative and vague,” Woods said. “So we have no confirmation that it would include layoffs, but obviously again, like I said in the beginning, we see what’s happening across the country, and we didn’t want to sit idly by and just kind of sit on our hands.“

The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday announced it intended to lay off more than 100 journalists, nearly a quarter of the newspaper’s entire staff, highlighting the crisis journalism faces around the country.

Dimmick said after management declined to voluntarily recognize the union on Thursday, they filed for a National Labor Relations Board election on Friday, which will be held on Jan. 30 if the union is not voluntarily recognized before then.

Dimmick said she and her coworkers continue to hope management will voluntarily recognize them before that and launch a collaborative bargaining process.

“We’re truly seeking a collaboration with management,” she said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll get voluntary recognition and kind of avoid the drama and back and forth. I have great respect for the whole San Antonio Report team. And I’m looking forward to getting to the bargaining table.”

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