Journalists with the Chicago Reader have authorized a strike after 16 months of negotiations with Reader owner Wrapports LLC, also parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The vote announced Friday means 17 Reader writers, editors and designers represented by the Chicago News Guild could walk off the job at any time, according to a statement from the union.
Management and the union continue to negotiate with the help of a federal mediator, according to a statement from Wrapports.
The Reader has been distributed weekly in print for free since 1971 and publishes stories daily on its website. Wrapports bought the Reader in 2012. Under its ownership, the size of the print edition has shrunk by more than 40 percent, the guild says.
Print advertising revenue at publications across the country also has decreased drastically in that time.
“Management seems to think it can get rid of its union problem by dragging this out until the entire staff quits to find work that will pay the bills,” Philip Montoro, the Reader’s music editor and head of the union bargaining committee, said in the union’s strike-vote announcement. “Many of us are working second jobs or subletting our apartments to get by because the paper’s hugely wealthy owners seem to think they can retain talented full-time staff with decades of experience by paying them salaries that were substandard 10 years ago.
“We’ve got an offer on the table and the company has not reciprocated. It’s past time for management to treat us with respect.”
Wrapports is still hopeful a deal can be reached.
“We have worked with the Chicago News Guild for several months on a contract and have made significant progress in a number of areas,” said Sun-Times editor and publisher Jim Kirk, who oversees the Reader. “While we remain apart on some issues, we continue to hope we can keep negotiating to a positive resolution. It is unfortunate that the guild has taken this step.”
The Reader bills itself as “Chicago’s largest free weekly newspaper, nationally recognized as a leader in the alternative press” and as “Chicago’s political conscience, cultural guide, and music authority.”