AFSCME supports SJ-R negotiations with GateHouse

Here is an update on the State Journal Register’s public campaign in Springfield, Ill., from our unit’s blog:

More than 80 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees cheered and applauded Thursday, April 25, when told that newsroom employees at The State Journal-Register have unionized and are working hard to get a fair, first contract with SJ-R owner GateHouse Media.

Dean Olsen, an SJ-R staff writer and chairman of the Springfield Unit of the United Media Guild, spoke to the crowd from AFSCME Local 2600 for 15 minutes and described the unit’s efforts thus far after voting 26-4 on Oct. 12, 2012, to organize.

The crowd, gathered for a dinner meeting at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in downtown Springfield, booed and jeered when Olsen explained some of GateHouse’s opening proposals, including an “open shop,” no pay raises and the desire by management to have the discretion to make the newsroom staff all independent contractors — with no benefits, working out of their homes and paid per story.

The crowd was especially incensed at the company’s proposed language that would allow company officials to search employees’ personal computers in their homes.

AFSCME Council 31 regional director Jeff Bigelow introduced Olsen and told the crowd that union brothers and sisters throughout the Springfield area need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Guild in preserving good jobs and good journalism in the capital of Illinois.

Olsen said the Springfield unit may need to engage the broader union community and the general public to help persuade GateHouse officials that some of the half-million-dollar raises given each year to top executives at GateHouse headquarters in Fairport, N.Y., should be shared by newsroom staff members who have gone without raises for almost six years. The crowd responded with cheers and clapping.

It appears obvious that the labor community in Springfield is sympathetic to the plight of reporters, copy editors and other staffers in the SJ-R newsroom, who have endured much over the past few years. They have seen much of the copy desk staff fired, pressmen fired, mailroom employees fired, press operations outsourced to Peoria and most layout functions outsourced to a regional GateHouse Design House in Rockford.

Olsen told the AFSCME members that the Springfield unit wants GateHouse to be successful. But the unit also wants the profits of the paper shared fairly with those who help to earn those profits. The Guild is determined to be a voice for workers who live and work in the Springfield area, who have spouses and children here and who care deeply about the long-term survival of Springfield’s daily newspaper.

The Springfield Unit of the Guild can be reached by contacting Olsen at (217) 836-1068 or The  unit’s Facebook page is at: