Springfield, Rockford units ratify first contracts with GateHouse

Oct 20, 2018 by

Our members at the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill, and the Rockford Register Star unanimously ratified first contracts with GateHouse Media in separate votes this week.

The Springfield unit voted to join the Guild in 2012 and Rockford followed in 2013. Their years-long battle for a fair contract finally took a positive turn in 2017 when the United Media Guild presented a good-governance shareholder proposal to GateHouse Media’s parent company, New Media Investment Group.

That allowed the UMG to approach top investors in New Media Investment Group and detail our concerns about GateHouse’s asset-stripping management. Our proposal passed overwhelmingly and shareholders issued a vote of no-confidence to the New Media board.

That effort, combined with The NewsGuild’s planned corporate campaign against GateHouse — funded by a six-figure CWA Strategic Industry Fund grant — encouraged the company to embark on unprecedented global economic bargaining for all Guild-represented newspapers.

That resulted in an agreement featuring raises of 1 percent in 2018 and 1.75 percent in 2019. That ended a decade-long wage freeze at many GateHouse papers, including the UMG-represented Peoria Journal Star and Pekin Daily Times.

In addition to those raises, the company froze health care premiums for both years and plan designs were frozen for ’18.

Bargaining continued for full collective bargaining agreements and resulted contracts that included a $500 signing bonus, seven additional days off for 2019 and the ability to reopen negotiations to address pay and health care premiums for 2020.

The UMG thanks Springfield unit chair Dean Olsen for his diligence throughout this challenging process. And we thank former Rockford unit chairs Melissa Westphal and Max Gersh along with current unit chair Kristen Zambo for never giving up on this contract quest.

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Retiree Luncheon to be held Nov. 1

Oct 8, 2018 by

The United Media Guild will hold its annual retiree luncheon at noon on Thursday, Nov. 1, at Lombardo’s Trattoria at 201 South 20th Street in downtown St. Louis. The restaurant is located inside the Drury Inn Union Station and it offers free parking in the garage behind the hotel.

The luncheon is free and open to all UMG retiree members. Please RSVP by email to UMG office manager Rachel Zaron at rzaron@unitedmediaguild.org. Or you can leave a message at 314-241-7046.

We look forward to seeing so many of those members who helped build this local union and keep it strong over the years.

 

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Post-Dispatch unit meetings scheduled for Oct. 10

Oct 3, 2018 by

United Media Guild unit chair Joe Holleman and other local leaders will be available to meet with Post-Dispatch unit members twice on Oct. 10 to discuss contract bargaining.

The meetings will be held at noon and again after work at Missouri Bar and Grill on Tucker.

UMG leaders met with management of Lee Enterprises and the Post-Dispatch on Oct. 3 to discuss the potential for expedited bargaining to begin later this month. We shared our top negotiating priorities, as did the company.

Based those discussions we believe expedited bargaining is worth a try. This format keeps most of our protections in place and allows us to focus on a handful of issues.

Each side will only send a few negotiators to the table. But the UMG will form a larger bargaining committee to set goals, evaluate offers and generally guide the process. We are seeking volunteers from each work area to join this committee.

If the expedited process doesn’t yield an agreement that the larger membership ratifies, then the UMG will go to traditional long-form bargaining over the entire contract.

The most recent collective bargaining agreement at the Post-Dispatch expired at the end of September, but it remains in effect due to its evergreen clause. That keeps all of the protections in place while we continue to bargain.

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Lee Enterprises closes Missoula Independent after it unionizes

Sep 13, 2018 by

Journalists at the Missoula Independent organized with The NewsGuild hoping to save that alternative weekly.

But rather than negotiate a first contract with journalists at the Independent, Lee Enterprises decided to shut it down.

Last year Matt Gibson sold the Independent to Lee, which owns the daily Missoulian newspaper in that community as well as several other Montana newspapers. At the time, Gibson said he hoped the arrangement would allow the Independent to gain the efficiencies needed to continue on.

But did Lee buy the newspaper with the long-term plan of shutting it down to eliminate competition?

“It certainly seems like the direction things were headed almost from the time Lee Enterprises purchased the Indy, and certainly once the Indy staff unionized,” Lee Banvill, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Montana, told the Missoulian.

Did unionization doom the newspaper?

“It might have changed the timing,” Banvill told the Missoulian. “It took the debate about the future of the alt-weekly public and it also clearly rankled Lee Enterprises to have to deal with a union. It may have sped things up.”

The United Media Guild has developed a good working relationship with Lee Enterprises in recent years. We have worked with the company to maintain strong journalism at the Post-Dispatch in the face of declining industry revenues.

But we find its shutdown of the Independent most disconcerting. More newsrooms will be organizing in the months ahead. Journalists are coming together seeking to preserve their craft and fight for the survival of their newspapers.

Lee Enterprises, GateHouse, Tronc, Gannett and Digital First must realize the Guild is not going away regardless of what tactics the company uses to discourage unionization.

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GateHouse guts Peoria Journal Star newsroom

Sep 13, 2018 by

GateHouse Media announced the layoffs of five Peoria Journal Star journalists represented by the United Media Guild last week, adding to its massive reduction of that newsroom workforce.

The casualties included reporters Chris Kaergard, Thomas Bruch and Aaron Ferguson as well as copy editor Shannon Countryman. Copy editor and page designer Wes Huett, will be laid off on September 21.

Veteran reporter Pam Adams left previously and the Journal Star also lost sports editor Kirk Wessler, editorial page editor Mike Bailey and assistant city editor Brad Erickson.

These cuts mirror the relentless cost-cutting that has diminished other GateHouse newspapers, including the Rockford Register Star, State Journal-Register and Pekin Daily News.

This all is part of the GateHouse Media business plan, as devised by Wes Edens and Co. at Fortress Investment Group. GateHouse slashes costs to maximize cash flow — which its parent company, New Media Investment Group, uses to pay big dividends, fund new acquisitions and pay hefty external management fees to Fortress.

These cuts accelerate the decline in circulation and advertising, which leads to more cuts . . . which maintains the cash flow to pay dividends, fund new acquisitions and pay hefty management fees to Fortress Investment Group. Wash, rinse, repeat.

At this rate once-vibrant newspapers in the GateHouse chain won’t be viable within a few years. Community after community will lose essential news-gathering operations and our society will suffer greatly as a result.

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