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Toledo Blade union members renew efforts to secure a labor contract

A stack of four folded newspapers
A union representing Toledo Blade employees is renewing its efforts to secure a labor contract. It's asking for better pay, the continuation of current health care coverage, and protections for certain jobs against outsourcing.

A union representing Toledo Blade employees is renewing its efforts to secure a labor contract.

The last contract between the Toledo NewsGuild and Block Communications, the newspaper’s owner, expired in 2017.

Union members have been negotiating since then to secure a new contract, but have recently doubled down on those efforts after a change in union leadership.

“First and foremost, what we want is a fair contract that respects the dignity and the hard work of our employees,” said Lillian King, the union’s president. “We want to be compensated and protected fairly so that we can continue producing the first-rate product of the Toledo Blade.”

Union demands

The NewsGuild is asking for wage increases to adjust for the rising cost of living. Employees at the Blade haven’t received across-the-board salary raises in more than two decades, according to the NewsGuild.

The union is also asking the company to maintain current levels of health care coverage instead of implementing proposed cuts. It wants protections for certain jobs to guarantee they won’t be outsourced to freelancers. And it’s asking Block Communications to improve workplace conditions.

“We’ve had issues with a very leaky roof. We’ve had cockroaches in the building. We’ve had mold in the air,” King said. “But really, the most important thing we’re asking for is the ability to do our jobs without fear of losing them.”

The Toledo Blade is one of the largest independently owned newspapers in the state, and is one of the increasingly few Ohio papers not owned by media conglomerate Gannett. Block Communications declined a request for comment.

King worries the paper will lose employees if working conditions don’t improve and protections aren’t guaranteed.

“Less people means there’s just less you can do,” she said. “That’s not something we want to see happen to the Blade or to Toledo.”

Editorial independence

Following the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, King said the Blade’s publisher changed the paper’s content to be more favorable to former president Donald Trump.

“This interferes with the integrity of the Blade and this interferes with the journalists who have staked their careers on the reputation of the paper they’ve worked hard to maintain, “ she said.

It’s another reason why she’s working to renegotiate the labor contract.

“If we don’t have a strong union, and we don’t know that there’s going to be someone behind us to help organize and maintain our protections, we’ll lose the ability to put our foot down when it really matters.”

The company also owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where union workers have been on strike for six months asking for similar workplace improvements.

It’s a situation King wants to avoid through contract negotiations.

But, she said, the stakes are high.

“The Toledo Blade could within a couple of years be unrecognizable to the people who work there and eventually to the people in the community,” she said.

Erin Gottsacker is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently reported for WXPR Public Radio in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.