Why I Joined

Sarah Wojcik, reporter:

My career at The Morning Call here began in 2015 after I left The Express-Times – a place at which I felt a fierce loyalty during my seven years. But the bloodletting at that paper, after years and years of layoffs and cutbacks, made my future there look increasingly bleak. I knew I had to move on.

I remember feeling convinced that The Morning Call newsroom would never feel as close as The Express-Times. I was proved wrong instantly. There was no doubt: this was home.

I gave birth to my son while working here. He’s only ever known his mommy to be a reporter for the Call. I am so proud of what I do for a living and the essential work my colleagues produce.

But I have felt a fear, always, that this home could one day feel like The Express-Times had when I left: robbed of talent and resources. I’ve watched colleagues leave because this job made it no longer possible for them to financially support their families. The  Morning Call has experienced its own painful rounds of layoffs over the years. Most recently we said farewell to amazing colleagues who felt it prudent to take a buyout and leave here with a sense that the decision was somewhat on their terms. In a few of these cases, this meant the premature end to incredible careers.

I chose to support The Morning Call Guild because I love this job and I love my colleagues.

We are an essential part of our community. We deserve a voice in our workplace. We deserve the dignity of being a part of the negotiationng for our future. We deserve a chance to ensure this newsroom remains a remarkable place to work no matter what changes lie ahead.

We should never allow our corporate ownership’s intractable reputation to keep us from advocating for ourselves and our beloved colleagues.

I’m under no delusion that our voting to start a union will miraculously transform the financial landscape of the industry right now.

But I do know that absolutely nothing will change if we do nothing.

Dan Sheehan, reporter:

When I arrived at The Morning Call in 2004, I walked into a newsroom where every desk was occupied. We had four bureaus around the Lehigh Valley. We had copy editors -- lots of them --  who didn't hesitate to call you at 1 a.m. to check a fact. Our reporters had the time and support to do deep reporting not just on long projects but in daily coverage. Reporters reported and wrote stories. They didn't have to write headlines or shoot photos or video because there were staffers who had expertise in those things and did them better.

All of that has changed, of course. We have a half-vacant newsroom now, a decimated copy desk, an overwhelmed three-person photo staff. Our coverage area has shrunk from seven counties to two. Morale is low. We are coming off another big round of departures -- people who took tremendous talent and institutional knowledge when they left under what were pitched as "voluntary separations" but were, in reality, passive layoffs.

In the meantime, the corporation that has overseen this catastrophe - not just here but at our sister papers - has done nothing to ameliorate it. Yes, our industry is grappling with intractable challenges. But good-faith efforts to find solutions to these have been impeded because while Tribune itself has seen fit to put itself into the hands of people whose only interest in newspapers is how much revenue can be squeezed out of them. We have endured the likes of Sam Zell -- the owner who said "F-you" to a journalist making a plea for substantive journalism -- and Michael Ferro, who resigned from his position ahead of a sexual harassment scandal and was paid $15 million as a reward. These are only two of the people who have made a laughingstock of this company and tarnished its legacy.

Here at home, we have been powerless under unilateral decision-making. The company says it prefers to deal with individuals, not a union. Of course it does, because it can silence one voice but would have considerably less success in silencing dozens of voices united in common cause.

That's why I’m voting yes for The Morning Call Guild.

Riley Yates, reporter:

I'm supporting the union because in the precarious industry we work in, having a contract and job protections is critical. My career has basically run alongside the financial decline of journalism. I'm tired of seeing good people leave the industry because they can no longer justify it to their families as a lifelong profession.

I've worked for a union paper, and my experience was nothing like the detractors have described. Good journalism was still rewarded and we had the flexibility to do our jobs as we saw fit. Six months out of college, I earned as much as I do today. My health insurance plan didn’t change every year or two.

I love newspapers for the wrongs they expose, the stories they tell and the sense of community they provide. But the layoffs and buyouts have proven time and again that the status quo isn’t working.

Binghui Huang, reporter:

The Morning Call is the best place I’ve ever worked. I’ve never laughed harder in the newsroom. I’ve never felt prouder of my work. I’ve never felt as devastated to see good journalists take their final walk out of the newsroom because they can't afford to do the job they love.

I first heard of The Morning Call from former reporter Jenna Portnoy, who said it was the best place she’s ever worked. She was right. The people make the newsroom special.

There's Tony Salamone, who has a heart of gold and offers to drive me from Allentown to the Newark airport. That says it all.

There’s Rick Kintzel, who puts his body in harm’s way to get a good photo. Trust me, I’ve seen him run into multiple parking meters at an alarming speed.

There’s Michelle Merlin, who always patiently listens to every one of my anxious thoughts. This is a shock to all parties involved.

There's Tom Shortell, who’s insightful and even keeled feedback has kept all of us from doing something embarrassing. Plus, he brightens everyone's day by pushing baby Erin videos and pictures in our faces.

There's Emily Opilo, who gave me a place to stay on one of the worst nights of my life, and saved me from the paint fumes of my house.e

I can go on. But I’ll spare the less sentimental of the bunch.

The point is: we really are a family.

I’d do anything for you all.

Our union keeps us together. Our corporate owners, editors and job descriptions will likely change. They have before. But we have an opportunity to have a seat at the table when those changes come.  We will look out for each other and fight for a workplace that we all feel proud to work in.

ANDREW SCOTT, REPORTER:

I believe I'm supporting unionization for the same reasons you are. To help preserve and maintain what we have. Which is a healthy, mutually respectful working relationship with management. And an atmosphere conducive to putting out a daily product that benefits the community we serve.

We're right to be proactive in our efforts to unionize. Because, with things going the way they have been in our industry, who knows what's going to happen in a few years? Who's to say our current or future ownership won't decide at some point that more reductions are in order? Being unionized may not be a 100 percent guarantee in preventing a worst-case scenario, but it does show how much we care about what we do and why we do it.

I'm supporting unionization not to make management or ownership feel intimidated (which they wouldn't anyway), but because I believe in fairness going both ways. From what I can see as "the new guy" so far, the staff here earns its keep. Our product's level of quality warrants respectful attention to any reasonable concerns we may have. Especially when you consider that reporters, photographers and other nonmanagement personnel are far less replaceable than factory workers (no disrespect to the latter).

DAVE GOLDMAN, CONTENT EDITOR:

I joined the union because I want to see my colleagues get fair wages, good benefits and decent working conditions.

I joined the union because I want my workplace to be a place where diversity is respected.

I joined the union because I want our voices to be heard and our needs to be considered by the corporation that owns the paper.

I joined the union because I want The Morning Call to continue in its role as community watchdog.

I joined the union because I admire the work my colleagues do and want them to have an employer who also appreciates that effort.

I joined the union because in every way it was the right thing to do.

JOHN J. MOSER, SENIOR REPORTER, FEATURES:

It’s important for employees who give so much of themselves to be given some semblance of security in return, to be fairly compensated, to be treated respectfully and, beyond all else, valued for how much we care about our paper, our community and our readers. We need representation to make sure we are.

Dedication, hard work, talent, experience and knowledge are no longer rewarded as they should be - even as we are required to do more and more. That’s why I support the union at The Morning Call.