Inside Public Integrity

Published — March 6, 2020

Center for Public Integrity signs historic agreement with newsroom union


The Center for Public Integrity and the union representing its newsroom and business-side staff signed a collective bargaining agreement, a historic first for Public Integrity, one of America’s oldest nonprofit newsrooms.

The agreement, which was ratified unanimously, represents the union’s and Public Integrity’s affirmation of fairness, inclusivity and transparency, the same values the organization promotes in its investigative reporting.

“This contract is proof that when leadership and staff share a common set of values unionization and collective bargaining can create a stronger, fairer and more productive workplace,” said Joe Yerardi, a data reporter and member of the bargaining committee for the Center for Public Integrity Union.

Calling the contract “a milestone,” CEO Susan Smith Richardson said, “As the wave of labor organizing in our field has shown, unions can be a vital partner in the work of reinventing how news organizations serve communities and build sustainability.”

Columbia Journalism Review estimates more than 2,000 editorial employees have unionized at Slate, Salon, Vox and other news websites in recent years as employees have sought protections against cutbacks in the media industry. Beyond job security, newsroom employees also lobbied employers for benefits that would better reflect values that journalism promotes, such as transparency, accountability and diversity.

The contract represents several firsts, not just for Public Integrity, but also for journalism union contracts generally. They include the implementation of a rule that all contract-covered positions be left open until at least 30 percent of applicants are women and 30 percent are people of color, union participation in Public Integrity’s board of director’s regular meetings, and protections for employees working under visas.

Other highlights from the contract include:

  • An immediate 2.5% raise for all members
  • Twelve weeks of fully paid family leave for all new parents
  • Prior notice of layoffs, and severance commensurate with service time
  • A progressive disciplinary procedure and just-cause termination

Staff of Public Integrity organized with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild in November 2018. WBNG is a local of the NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America.

Members of the Center for Public Integrity Union bargaining committee are: Zachary Fryer-Biggs, a national security reporter; Pratheek Rebala, a news developer; and Joe Yerardi, a data reporter. Jared Bennett and Abeo Venzor formerly served on the bargaining committee. Rick Ehrmann, WBNG local representative, assisted the bargaining committee in negotiations.

Public Integrity’s negotiating team was led by CEO Susan Smith-Richardson; James & Hoffman, P.C. attorney Kathy L. Krieger; and Marcum LLP human resources specialist Zena Curry.

Read more in Inside Public Integrity

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