Union workers at Cascade Public Media in Seattle intend to challenge an organizational restructuring that will eliminate five jobs at Cascade’s online news site Crosscut.
The realignment, scheduled to take effect July 1, is part of a plan to shift the organization’s editorial focus away from text-based reporting to multimedia journalism, according to Don Wilcox, CPM spokesperson.
“This is not a cost-cutting measure, rather it is a refinement of our editorial strategy to expand our local, original video journalism and companion podcasts, as well as our investigative desk,” Wilcox said in an email. “Our written coverage will focus on statewide politics and investigations, and previous beats will be moved to a multimedia model as part of our original productions efforts.”
Cascade, which also operates Seattle’s PBS member station KCTS, will “wind down five current positions and add five new multimedia roles — so our editorial staff numbers remain the same,” Wilcox said. “Of course, everyone is invited to apply for the new positions.”
Management announced the newsroom restructuring internally Wednesday. Crosscut Union vowed to fight the layoffs in a statement released Thursday.
“The Crosscut Union condemns the unnecessary and harmful layoffs of our Indigenous affairs, communities, and science and environment reporters, staff photographer, and social media editor,” the statement said. “These are all positions held by women, two of whom are women of color. The company has also announced it will not rehire for open arts and education reporter positions.”
The bargaining unit, which has 25 members, is represented by the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild Local 37082, part of the NewsGuild–Communications Workers of America. Crosscut Union’s first contract with management, approved in 2021, expires in September 2024.
Sarah Hoffman, Crosscut Union chair and senior video producer for CPM, said management’s layoff plan violates the collective bargaining agreement. “These layoffs were done out of seniority order,” she said. The contract requires any job cuts to start with employees who are the most recent hires. “One of the reporters in the layoffs has been with the company five years,” she said.
Hannah Weinberger, the reporter with five years of seniority at Crosscut, joined other impacted employees in tweeting about how the layoffs affect their jobs. “My colleagues being let go have been excelling in their roles, and have been on the front lines of building trust with marginalized readers.”
Luna Reyna, an Indigenous affairs reporter who joined Crosscut in November 2021, tweeted that newsroom positions like hers “aren’t valued the way they should be because us and the communities we come from or cover aren’t valued the way we should be.”
The layoffs also affect Maleeha Syed, communities reporter, who has worked for Crosscut since July 2021; Amanda Snyder, a staff photographer who joined in March 2022; and Grace Palmieri, social media editor who joined Crosscut in October 2021.
Cascade’s restructuring includes a plan to create a unified brand for Crosscut and KCTS, “with less focus on written reporting and a greater focus on video and podcast production,” according to the union’s statement. “Cascade Public Media has the right to organize their organization how they see fit. They have the right to brand how they see fit,” said Kaitlin Gillespie, a Guild staff representative working with Crosscut Union.
But management isn’t following provisions in the contract that guide layoff decisions, according to Gillespie. In addition to the rule for cutting jobs based on seniority, the agreement calls for any vacant positions to be offered to people being laid off. “There’s a one-to-one swap here so if people want these jobs they should be offered new positions instead of just being given a layoff notice,” she said.
Management has said that internal candidates will be given a “first crack” at getting the new jobs if their skills align with the new roles, Gillespie said, but details of those new positions have not yet been announced.
The contract also stipulates the new positions pay the same or more compared to the positions that are being eliminated, Hoffman said. “There shouldn’t be any decrease there,” she said.