Journalists at The Lakeland Ledger voted overwhelmingly Thursday to form a union, becoming the only unionized newsroom staff in Florida.
The 22-3 vote by the staff of Polk County’s daily newspaper means The NewsGuild will represent The Ledger‘s newsroom employees as they bargain their first labor contract with the paper’s owner, GateHouse Media.
“Not only is Thursday’s action a historic moment for journalism in Florida, I’m confident it is a positive step for The Ledger,” said Gary White, a Ledger reporter for 14 years and a leader in the organizing drive.
“This landslide vote sends an unmistakable signal that employees demand to have a voice in critical decisions that will determine how The Ledger responds to the challenges of an industry in transition,” White said.
With a daily circulation of 45,900 and Sunday circulation of 61,000, The Ledger becomes the only paper in Florida, and the first in modern memory, to have a unionized newsroom. The Ledger also has struggled to retain experienced journalists when newsroom employees have gone more than eight years without pay raises.
GateHouse Media, based in Pittsford, New York, is one of the largest publishers of newspapers in the country. It is part of New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded company.