UMG makes progress in Post-Dispatch bargaining

Last week the United Media Guild made strides in bargaining with St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Lee Enterprises management for a new three-year contract.

The vast majority of our members who are in the pay scales have reached the top step of their scale, so their pay has become stagnant. Members who have yet to reach top of scale get annual step increases on the anniversary date of their hiring.

In our previous three-year contract, the pay scales were increased 2 percent, 0 percent and 2 percent across all of the steps.

In order to gain the biggest benefit for the most members this time around, we have proposed adding a new, higher step to each of the pay scales while leaving the other steps as is. (Most of our members outside of sales-plus commission sales are in the A or D scale).  Our proposal also increases this new top scale in the second and third year of the contract.

The bottom line result would be:

  • The majority of our members in the scales would move up to the new top scale and get a raise in each contract year.
  • Members below top scale would get annual step pay increases on the anniversary date of their hire while progressing toward the higher top scale. Their long-term earning potential would increase.

We have also made progress on these fronts:

  • Annual increases in the base pay for advertising salespersons earning base plus commission.
  • Increased monthly 401K contribution by the company
  • Increased pay for interns.
  • Frozen health insurance premiums and plan details for 2022.
  • Continuation of company-provided parking.
  • Increased paid maternity leave.
  • Paternity leave.
  • Continuing the ability of employees to work from home, with clearly defined exceptions.

We are still working to finalize language on the work flexibility issue. The company has been addressing our concerns about pay for newsroom employees promoted as columnists, but not paid as such.

The Post-Dispatch has asked the Guild for approval to move the Pulitzer Pension Plan under the same administrative umbrella as Lee Enterprises’ other pension plans. The Guild’s pension consultant reviewed the proposal and agreed that it would not endanger the federally protected pension benefits of current or future recipients.

Here are the basics:

  • While the Pulitzer plan is underfunded, the Buffalo pension plan under Lee’s control is overfunded.
  • Tying the overfunded pension to the underfunded Pulitzer plan would save the company the pension insurance costs tied to the underfunding.
  • Connecting the plans also saves the company the millions of dollars it would have had to pour into the Pulitzer plan at some point to improve its funding level.
  • The connection also saves the company some annual administrative costs.

In addition to discussing a new agreement, the Guild is resolving several questions it has about Lee Enterprises’ new cell phone policy and the impact that policy would on journalists and salespersons.

The two sides will meet again this week.