Chicago Reader will become nonprofit, union negotiating contracts


The Chicago Reader will become a nonprofit organization after co-owner Len Goodman announced he would sign off and step down this past Wednesday.

This comes after the Chicago Reader Union started mobilizing to transition into nonprofit status on April 14. They held one rally at Goodman’s residence on April 21.

The union found out about Goodman’s announcement ten minutes after the Tribune had broken the story.

“We found out everything that was within that article, it hit all of our Slack channels around 10 minutes of it,” said Yasmin Zarcaria Mikhaiel, the Reader’s audience engagement manager and union member. “[It] didn’t feel real in a sense.”

The union had another rally planned for the next day at Goodman’s residence where they would work in front of his Lakeview home. That was canceled following the news.

Union members were finalizing publishing their April 28 issue when they got the news.

“It was a workday when it dropped. We still had a paper to be put out that is now currently on the streets,” Mikhaiel said. “There’s some shock and disbelief that comes in seeing that piece hit the internet and not knowing what paperwork has necessarily been signed.”

Tracy Baim, co-publisher, and Karen Hawkins, co-publisher and editor-in-chief, wrote to their readers about the announcement as well.

Union members expressed their gratitude towards Goodman and fellow members.

“We could not have reached this conclusion without my colleagues in the unit advocating for the jobs of all of our coworkers,” said Leor Galil, Chicago Reader staff writer, in the Reader newsletter.

Philip Montoro, the Reader union chair, said in a statement in the staff announcement that their win symbolized the industry coming together rather than being divided by competition.

“I think that’s the way forward for all local media organizations given how hostile the economic landscape is, that we are all colleagues now, not competitors,” Montoro said in the announcement.  “We’re a team, and we’re fighters, and we have a future again.”

The union’s work does not stop after their win. The 18 union members will now fight for contract negotiation.

“We’re preparing to go to the bargaining table with management,” Mikhaiel said. “Although we’re really grateful for the support we’ve seen, we know that we deserve more and better compensation and different resources for our staff.”

Many of the staff work multiple jobs or also freelance to support themselves financially, according to Mikhaiel.

“We’ve been working in a very untenable state already, prior to this crisis,” she said.

The union also wants to work to rebuild morale internally after mobilizing and working the past three weeks.

“We definitely are hopeful for a future where we can build morale back up and give each other some rest,” she said.

The Reader will transition under the Reader Institute for Community Journalism.