Chicago Tribune journalists file lawsuit alleging pay discrimination against female and Black employees

Seven Chicago Tribune journalists filed an equal pay lawsuit Thursday in Chicago federal court against the newspaper and its owner, Alden Global Capital, alleging female and African American employees unfairly receive lower compensation for their work.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, alleges female and African American journalists receive, on average, several thousands of dollars less per year than their white male colleagues, a pay disparity that would be in violation of federal and state law.

“We deserve to be paid fairly, on par with our peers,” said Madeline Buckley, a Tribune criminal courts reporter and one of the seven plaintiffs. “Pursuing this lawsuit was a painful decision to make, but we believe it’s necessary to ensure current and future generations of women and journalists of color can build a career at the Chicago Tribune free of discrimination based on sex or race.”

A spokesperson for Alden, the New York-based hedge fund that purchased the Chicago Tribune and parent company Tribune Publishing in 2021, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

The seven Tribune journalists include award-winning minority and female reporters, photographers and editors, all of whom make less than white colleagues with comparable, and in some cases, significantly less experience, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the Chicago Tribune relied on diversity recruitment programs to bring on women and minority journalists for yearlong residencies at lower salaries, keeping them at that reduced pay scale if they were hired full time. It also alleges the Tribune “intentionally” hires women and minority employees from suburban newspapers to pay them at a lower rate.

The seven journalists are all members of the Chicago Tribune Guild, a six-year-old union representing 80 editorial employees at the newspaper. In February, the union organized a one-day newsroom strike — the first in the newspaper’s 177-year-history — with pay inequity at the center of its concerns.

In addition to equal pay acts, the lawsuit alleges Tribune and Alden are violating federal and state civil rights acts. It is seeking an adjustment in wage rates and benefits to end the pay disparity, as well as undisclosed damages.