The United Media Guild and Lee Enterprises have been attempting to negotiate a successor agreement at The Southern Illinoisan since March. During that time, we have had five bargaining sessions.
There has been some progress made. The Guild and Lee have reached tentative agreements on the following items:
- The notification for layoffs would move from one week to two weeks.
- Adding Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday.
- Paid parental leave moves from two weeks to four weeks.
- Diversity hiring language has been added to help ensure our newsroom better represents the region we serve.
- Much of the foundation of our current agreement will also remain in place.
However, on the subject of wages, bargaining has progressed slowly. While Lee HAS moved on their original position, it has only been in very small increments.
We are well aware of how overworked our staff is. Like Guild members in newsrooms everywhere, our members are being asked to do more and more with less and less. And, in the case of the Southern, those overworked individuals haven’t received a pay increase for three years now. The Guild bargaining team is working diligently to overcome these challenges, but Lee’s proposed raises continue to ignore the fact that recent new hires at the Southern walked through the door earning more than employees with years of service and we are attempting to help Lee understand that experience and institutional knowledge are assets that should be valued.
Lee’s current wage proposal offers a $13 an hour starting wage for News Clerks and a $14 an hour wage for News Clerks with five years of service. The Illinois minimum wage will be $13 an hour on Jan. 1, 2023 and will be $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2024. Seriously?
It is encouraging that Lee is no longer asking for the removal of our pay scale. However, both sides remain unable to reach an agreement on what that pay scale should look like. We believe that Lee’s current offer does not adequately value the hard work and experience of our membership.
Finally, Lee wants us to adopt a new PTO policy that is the same as its non-union employees. While we are not fully against this policy, we note that our current PTO policy allows us to carry over unused time, while their proposed policy does not. This leads to some confusion on how a transition would occur and how the new policy would be of any real benefit to our members.
The Guild is committed to continue negotiating until a fair and equitable agreement has been reached. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions, comments or concerns about where we are with the process, feel free to let us know.
SI News Guild Bargaining Team:
Shawn Anglin / Unit Chair
Marilyn Halstead / Vice Chair
Byron Hetzler / Recording Secretary
Shannon Duffy / Guild Administrative Officer