Observer Dispatch and Other Gannett Papers Go on 24-Hour Strike
The Observer Dispatch and several other Northeast Gannett newspapers went on a 24-hour strike on Friday morning, according to employees at the historic Utica newspaper. About a half dozen employees, the majority of the Utica and Mohawk Valley workforce, walked off the job at 5 AM on Friday for a 24-hour period, in order to send a message to their parent company about unfair working conditions.
Rose Schneider, a reporter since 2019 and a member of the Utica New Guild (the union representing employees), told WIBX on Friday morning that the conditions are so difficult and unstable at the Utica newspaper and sister paper, the Time Telegram in Herkimer, that they needed to send a message ton Gannett during the collective bargaining process.
Schneider said that cuts in the workforce, and cuts in resources have made it almost impossible for them to do their job. She said that because they are so short-staffed, the few employees remaining are left to make up for the lack of help which results in either employees being overworked and exhausted, or the newspaper being void of the basic local news that Mohawk Valley residents have depended on for decades.
"Enough is enough," employees stated in a news release on Friday.
“Our members are walking out today because Gannett has left us with no choice,” unit chair Rose Schneider said in a statement. “From layoffs this summer to positions ranging from sports reporter to editor left vacant, the company has shown apathy if not downright callousness toward its employees and the communities it is meant to serve.”
Employees of the the Observer Dispatch and the Times Telegram created an alternative union version of the newspaper at a website where they planned to deliver news and local sports through Saturday, when they were expected to return to work at the OD.
WIBX reached out to Gannett and is awaiting a response.
Employees held a series of demonstrations outside their newly occupied small office at 70 Genesee Street in Utica at Traveler's Insurance. The paper's historic Oriskany Street building was sold last year. They had occupied that large facility since 1926.
The Observer Dispatch was founded in 1817 and was purchased by Gannett in 1922. Up until 1987, Gannett produced the Observer Dispatch in morning, and printed an afternoon paper, The Daily Press, in the afternoon. Following 1987, they printed only a morning edition, The Observer Dispatch.
It's believed to be the only time in the storied history of the Utica newspaper that employees went on strike. The Observer Dispatch and Daily Press jointly won a Pulitzer Prize in 1959.
Watch the interview with Schneider below.