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Miami Herald Says Columnists Shouldn't Have Union Protection

Herald management is contesting the union eligibility of five employees, including columnists Carl Hiaasen and Leonard Pitts.EXPAND
Herald management is contesting the union eligibility of five employees, including columnists Carl Hiaasen and Leonard Pitts.
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With only two days to go before votes are counted in an election on whether to unionize employees in the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald newsrooms, Herald reporters have denounced a decision by management to exclude five of their colleagues from union protection.

According to Tallahassee bureau chief and One Herald Guild member Mary Ellen Klas, Herald management announced in the runup to last month's vote on unionization that it would contest the union eligibility of five employees on the grounds they hold supervisory roles or are members of the paper's editorial board. Among those five employees are Herald columnists Leonard Pitts and Carl Hiaasen, as well as Nuevo Herald online editor Douglas Rojas-Sosa. One Herald Guild member Nicholas Nehamas identified the other two employees as Angel Doval, a newsroom assistant; and Flor Paz, a producer.

Friday, One Herald Guild published a digital letter signed by Pitts, Hiaasen, and Rojas-Sosa expressing shock at management's decision to exclude them from the bargaining unit.

"We are not nor have we ever been part of the Editorial Board in any working sense, and have no more role in establishing the Miami Herald or el Nuevo Herald's public image than any other Editorial staff member. None of us have ever participated in any way in McClatchy’s editorial decisions," they wrote.

The letter's authors demanded that Herald management "withdraw this refusal with the National Labor Relations Board" by tomorrow so their votes can be counted Wednesday.

Klas says One Herald Guild has yet to receive a response from Herald management. If management refuses to change its position before Wednesday's vote count, One Herald Guild plans to file a grievance before the National Labor Relations Board, according to Klas.

"Management made a big point of saying that they wanted a fair election, but excluding five of our colleagues from the union — that's the opposite of fairness," Klas says. "We fear they are using this as a tactic to weaken the bargaining unit by limiting the amount of employees protected."

Mindy Marqués, the Herald's publisher and executive editor, did not respond to New Times' request for comment.

Earlier today, other One Herald Guild members posted online messages in solidarity with their colleagues.

"We are encouraged to report on issues of voter disenfranchisement and call it out when we smell wrongdoing. This is no different," Herald reporter Samantha Gross tweeted.

This isn't the first time Herald leadership has faced blowback over its handling of union elections. Two days before the October 30 vote on unionization, Marqués announced management would reverse course on its plans to block Herald reporter Julie Brown and photojournalist Emily Michot from voting via absentee ballot.

The vote count will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. One Herald Guild will need more than 50 percent of the union group's vote to be successful. If the guild wins, the Herald would become the fifth McClatchy paper to unionize. Unionized employees would join the NewsGuild, a branch of the Communication Workers of America.

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