Courier Journal building exterior 8-30-22

The Courier Journal building at 525 W. Broadway on Aug. 30, 2022.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Fed up with staff cuts, resignations and low pay, about 35 newsroom employees at the Pulitzer Prize-winning Courier Journal announced Tuesday that they are unionizing.    

"Gannett, the company that owns The Courier Journal, must be held accountable for the staff bleed during the pandemic and chronically low wages at the paper," members of the Courier Journal Guild said in a news release. "Thirty-four staffers have left The Courier Journal over the last two years alone, leaving fewer eyes on community issues that readers care about."

A super-majority of the eligible newsroom employees have signed cards indicating their support for the union, and the journalists have filed with the National Labor Relations Board for an election to certify the union, according to the news release.

On Twitter, the Courier Journal Guild mentioned a succession of buyouts and layoffs as well as Gannett's mothballing of its downtown printing press and plan to sell the newspaper's longtime home at 525 W. Broadway.

"Time after time, Gannett's actions have chipped away at morale and at our product," the Guild said. "Louisville deserves better."

The Louisville journalists are joining Indianapolis NewsGuild, TNG-CWA Local 34070, the union that represents journalists at the Indianapolis Star, also a Gannett newspaper.

“We respect the right of employees at the Courier Journal to make a fully informed choice for themselves whether to unionize or not unionize," said Amy Garrard, Gannett's labor relations counsel, in an emailed statement. "Gannett strongly supports the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) election process and has always participated in that process fairly and in good faith. Central to that process is a democratic election in which every employee’s voice is heard.”

Gannett's notorious cost-cutting amid the challenges of the newspaper industry has pushed several newsrooms to organize in recent years.

About 17% of Gannett's roughly 13,800 U.S. employees were unionized as of Dec. 31, 2021, according to the company's annual report. The company had 79 collective bargaining agreements and 15 units negotiating a first contract, according to the report.

Gannett, which in 2019 merged with the national newspaper chain Gatehouse, is by far the largest newspaper publisher in the country, with 230 "daily print media brands," including USA Today.

After reporting a $54 million net loss in the quarter ended June 30 on revenue that fell 7% from a year earlier, the company embarked on another round of aggressive cost cutting. In Louisville, Gannett laid off Courier Journal sports columnist Tim Sullivan.

It also plans to sell more "nonstrategic and real estate assets" — such as the Courier Journal building that is listed for sale — to generate cash to pay down debt.

Gannett sees a future in selling digital subscriptions to its local publications, but most of its revenue still comes from the legacy print business.

In 2021, print advertising and circulation made up 67% of the company's $2.9 billion in operating revenue, according to company filings. Digital-only circulation, while growing quickly, generated only $100 million, or about a third of the revenue Gannett received from selling print classified ads.

Gannett's stock has lost 57% of its value in the last 12 months, compared to a 17% drop in the S&P 500 index.

The company's market capitalization — its total value in the stock market — has dwindled to about $340 million, causing Wall Street analysts to lose interest in covering the stock. During the company's latest earnings call on Aug. 4, there were no analysts present to ask questions during the normal question-and-answer portion of the call.

The Courier Journal Guild said it will demand Gannett creates "a system of pay raises to reward institutional knowledge and commitment to Louisville"; that all salaries are "equitable, fair and liveable"; and that the company allow free online access to "stories in the public's interest, including those on natural disasters and COVID-19."

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822,, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2022. WDRB Media. All rights reserved.