Why Springfield needed Guild representation

October 12 was election day at the Springfield State Journal-Register. Reporters, photographers, editors and newsroom aides will decide whether the United Media Guild should represent them.

We encouraged our members to reach out to their colleagues in Springfield and describe the benefits of representation. Here was our message to them:

Guild members fight for quality of their jobs, the vitality of their newspapers and the future of journalism. They take an active role to determine their future.

When negotiations at the Peoria Journal Star stalled with the company demanding sweeping concessions this summer, we mobilized community support. Political and religious leaders urged GateHouse to negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement.

Peoria unit chair Phil Luciano and United Media Guild business representative Shannon Duffy took this cause directly to GateHouse CEO Michael Reed. Their visit spurred negotiating progress and a June agreement that maintained the JS copy desk, earned unit members signing bonuses (1½ times their weekly pay) and gained enhanced severance for outsourced circulation employees.

“After more than a half-century of Guild protection – and in the wake of the most challenging contract negotiations in a quarter-century – Peoria Unit 86 can attest to the value and power of Guild guidance,” Luciano said.

We rallied public support for Pekin Daily Times employees in their initial contract negotiations. The resulting agreement included outsourcing limitations and saved newsroom jobs while other GateHouse newspapers lost copy editors to the corporate design houses.

We gained the ability to grieve and (if necessary) arbitrate disciplinary actions and other management actions. Not coincidentally, we have been able to work with Daily Times managers to resolve myriad issues and improve working conditions.

Due to GateHouse’s distressed financial state, pay raises in that contract were contingent on revenue increases at the Daily Times. Revenues declined, unfortunately, mirroring company-wide conditions that led to wholesale layoffs elsewhere in GateHouse.

What will happen in Springfield? The choices are yours. You vote to join the Guild. You choose your leaders, your priorities and your course of action. You vote on any contract settlements.

We would not collect initiation fees and we would not collect any dues until we achieved an agreement good enough to earn membership approval.

This is the big promise we can make: Our local, sector and national staff and officers will rally behind your efforts to gain a contract, improve your working conditions and protect your journalism.