November 28, 2022

More than 20 workers representing the vast majority of unionized journalists at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram went on strike Monday, claiming that owner McClatchy has refused to bargain with them in good faith.

The two sides have been negotiating a first contract for two years. Among the issues at stake are workplace policies regarding salaries, sick leave, layoffs and severance. The union representing the journalists, the Fort Worth NewsGuild, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in August, alleging that McClatchy has violated federal labor law by refusing to negotiate fairly. The company also faces two other complaints of unfair labor practices.

During negotiations, McClatchy has repeatedly rejected the union’s proposals and sent back counterproposals reiterating company policy, Fort Worth NewsGuild vice president Kaley Johnson said.

“Bargaining is supposed to be a compromise on both sides,” Johnson said. “We know we’re not going to get everything we want. But McClatchy also should be aware that they’re not going to get the exact company policy in the contract because that’s why we unionized in the first place.”

One major point of contention is wages. In March 2021, McClatchy implemented $42,000 and $45,000 wage floors for its papers. But newly unionized papers like the Star-Telegram did not benefit from this increase as the company expected them to set their salaries through the contract negotiation process. 

During negotiations, the guild proposed a wage floor of $57,5000, which they based on the average cost of rent and utilities of a one-bedroom apartment in Fort Worth, Texas. McClatchy countered with a wage floor of $45,000. 

“This offer reflects the disregard and carelessness with which McClatchy has approached its proposals to date, as a $45,000 salary all but ensures journalists will continue to be priced out of this newsroom and leave for more stable opportunities elsewhere,” the guild wrote in a press release.

Star-Telegram executive editor Steve Coffman wrote in an emailed statement that the company plans to “continue to bargain in good faith.”

“The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is serving our communities, covering the news that matters to Tarrant County and North Texas,” Coffman wrote. “We continue to bargain in good faith and look forward to reaching an agreement.”

McClatchy, which owns 30 dailies, has seen a number of its papers — including the Star-Telegram — unionize following its acquisition by hedge fund Chatham Asset Management in 2020. The Star-Telegram is the first newspaper within the chain to go on an open-ended strike, a decision supported by more than 90% of cardholding union members. 

The union is prepared to strike until they get a fair contract, Johnson said. The next bargaining date is set for Dec. 8, though the guild is ready to hold emergency bargaining sessions before then.

The Star-Telegram strike is the latest in a string of newsroom work stoppages. Once a rarity, journalists are increasingly using strikes and strike threats to propel contract negotiations. Last month, workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette launched their own strike, marking the first open-ended newspaper strike in more than 20 years. Journalists at McClatchy’s three Florida papersheld a one-day work stoppage earlier this year.

Though striking is “terrifying,” it’s also necessary to secure fair working conditions for present and future Star-Telegram journalists, Johnson said.

“For-profit companies like McClatchy are not going to give employees fair working conditions on their own, unfortunately,” Johnson said. “So we have to fight for them even though we shouldn’t have to.”

Correction, Nov. 28, 2022: This article was updated to correct the date of the Fort Worth NewsGuild’s next bargaining session.  

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Angela Fu is a reporter for Poynter. She can be reached at or on Twitter @angelanfu.
Angela Fu