Springfield, Rockford units ratify first contracts with GateHouse

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.