Nine UMG members collect Post-Dispatch severance

Jul 9, 2015 by

As expected, several long-time United Media Guild members volunteered to accept lay-offs in place of the four reporters and one copy editor originally targeted.

The company made this announcement:

Under the terms of the United Media Guild’s collective bargaining agreement, four reporters and a copy editor were reinstated from the June 26 reduction in force. Nine members of the Guild applied for voluntary separation and the Post-Dispatch accepted. Columnist Bill McClellan volunteered but will continue to write a Sunday column. Bill’s column will appear this Friday and Sunday, and then resume Sundays only on Aug. 2 after his previously scheduled vacation.

This was the culmination of a months-long process. Here is how it broke down:

Earlier this year, the UMG and Post-Dispatch management discussed the possibility of reducing the workforce by offering long-time newsroom employees the opportunity to depart voluntarily and collect severance. After originally seeking volunteers, P-D management changed its mind and announced there would be no voluntary layoffs.

UMG leaders urged the company to reconsider, since this was an opportunity to “clear the decks” of senior journalists before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement in September. We knew we have several members in position to either retire early or move on to other jobs.

Not long after the company proposed expedited bargaining to extend our contract, the company announced layoffs — including the four reporters and one copy editor, among other UMG members. This prompted the UMG to revisit the earlier discussions about voluntary departures, including our earlier discussion of McClellan’s situation. It became readily apparent we would get enough volunteers to cover the reporters and the editor.

After the layoffs were announced, UMG leadership discussed the parameters of the expedited bargaining. The company indicated that it would be willing to offer raises but it would want some revision of our current severance language — which allows long-time employees to collect up to 66 weeks of pay, depending on their hiring date and years of service.

Not coincidentally, we soon learned that a larger group of members wanted to leave under the current contract language. More reporters than necessary stepped up to take the severance and UMG members in other classifications also volunteered.

Ultimately the company decided to expand the layoff by taking nine volunteers. In addition, the company offered to pay severance to the originally targeted editor — even though another editor volunteered for the layoff. That editor ultimately decided to stay, along with the four reporters.

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UMG members step up for laid-off co-workers

Jul 1, 2015 by

The Post-Dispatch laid off several United Media Guild members last Thursday, including four reporters and one full-time copy editor.

As of Tuesday afternoon, four of our members had volunteered to take the place of the laid-off reporters. Also, one copy editor volunteered to replace his desk colleague in the layoff.

The company will consider volunteers in the order of their seniority within their classification. According our contract with the Post-Dispatch, a member replacing a fellow member in the layoff will collect severance pay based on hiring date and time of service.

The human resources department is still accepting volunteers. It wants to hear from all interested parties by July 7 so newsroom managers can finalize the layoff and notify our members of the final outcome.

Anybody will questions should contact Shannon Duffy or Mary Casey at the UMG office at 314-241-7046.

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Post-Dispatch lays off UMG members

Jun 26, 2015 by

The Post-Dispatch laid off nine members of the United Media Guild, including seven full-time employees and two temporary employees. The impacted employees include four reporters, one editor, two editors working on a temporary basis, a work station operator and a carpenter.

Under the terms of our collective bargaining agreement, other UMG members may volunteer to accept the layoff in their place.

Employees hired before Dec. 1, 1994 get one week of severance pay for every six months of continuous employment, up to 66 weeks.

Employees hired after Dec. 1, 1994 get one week of severance pay for every one year of continuous employment, up to 26 weeks.

UMG members interested in volunteering to resign to collect the severance should contact human resources.

According to our contract, “within a period of two weeks from the date of such notice any employee in a classification within the affected department may resign voluntarily and take dismissal pay under the provisions of Article XV of this Agreement, provided the total of such resignations shall not exceed the number of jobs affected in a given classification within that department.”

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UMG to begin expedited bargaining with Post-Dispatch

Jun 24, 2015 by

Soon the United Media Guild will start expedited bargaining with Post-Dispatch management for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Our current CBA expires Sept. 27. Rather than engage in comprehensive bargaining over dozens of topics, the UMG and the company will focus on a handful of critical issues to see if we can strike a deal.

We hope to start bargaining sometime in July and conclude the negotiations within weeks.

After reviewing dozens of negotiation questionnaires filled out by our members, the UMG has set two priorities for this contract:

1) Restore lost wages. Our members in most classifications suffered 6 percent wage cuts in the previous contract and also endured unpaid furloughs. Meanwhile the cost of living increased, as did the out-of-pocket expenses for those using the Lee Enterprises medical plan.

2) Protect our salespeople from drastic earnings losses caused by company actions. Those would include altering sales plans, client lists and territory assignments.

Additional negotiating priorities will be discussed by members of the bargaining oversight committee, which features a broad cross-section of UMG members. This oversight committee will monitor and advise the bargaining team led by business representatives Shannon Duffy and Mary Casey and Post-Dispatch unit chair Joe Holleman.

The oversight committee will meet for the first time Tuesday, June 30 at 6:15 p.m. at the UMG office at 1015 Locust, Suite 735. Then will meet with the bargaining team periodically to discuss negotiating developments and strategies.

We hope to bring a proposal to a full membership vote by the end of the summer. Should expedited bargaining fail to produce a contract our members approve, we will shift to more traditional negotiations that could extend well past the expiration of our current contract.

In that case our members would continue working under terms of the old contract, thanks to the evergreen clause that keeps our protections in place while we negotiate.

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Local meeting planned for July 11 in Peoria

Jun 14, 2015 by


The United Media Guild will hold its next Local Meeting at 1 p.m. July 11 at Kelleher’s Pub & Eatery in Peoria.
This restaurant, the site of our last Local meeting in Peoria, is on the riverfront at 619 SW Water St., Peoria, Ill., 61602. This meeting is open to all UMG members in good standing. Lunch will be provided.
This is an opportunity for our Illinois-based members at GateHouse newspapers gather and joint actions as we attempt to secure first contracts at Springfield and Rockford.

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UMG journalists shine in Illinois

Jun 14, 2015 by

Even in the midst of difficult contract negotiations at GateHouse Media newspapers, United Media Guild leaders have remained dedicated to practicing outstanding journalism.

Their outstanding performance earned awards from the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors.

Rockford Register Star unit chair Max Gersh won first-place awards from the Illinois APME for general news photography and feature photography. His news photo of an anxious kindergartner on the first day of school also won the APME photo sweepstakes.

State Journal-Register vice chair Jason Nevel got first place from the IPA for best school board coverage.

Long-time Pekin Daily Times unit chair Sharon Woods Harris won first-place IPA honors for best coverage of taxation.

Gersh’s performance was especially impressive given his difficult working circumstances in Rockford. The UMG filed unfair labor practice charges against Register Star management for its actions against photographers in general and Gersh in particular.

Many other UMG members won awards from the IPA and Illinois APME. Here were just some of the highlights:

The IPA gave first-place honors to Register Star reporter Corina Curry and photographer Brent Lewis (now a Guild member at the Denver Post) in the news reporting series category for “Kylie’s Hand,” the story of a group of Boylan High School students who created an artificial hand for an area girl.

The Illinois APME gave first-place honors to Register Star reporters Chris Green and Georgette Braun for their heroin series that was “well-planned, compellingly written and reported, and beautifully presented . . . in print and online.”

The APME gave first-place honors to Peoria Journal Star reporter Leslie Renken for entertainment writing. Her winning story spotlighted a pageant for girls with special needs.

Journal Star photographer Ron Johnson earned first-place APME and IPA honors in the sports feature photo category.

Journal Star columnist Phil Luciano, UMG’s unit chair in Peoria, earned first-place IPA honors.

Chris Grimm won first place from IPA illustration honors for a depiction of Jimi Hendricks in the Journal Star. The Cue entertainment section, designed by Grimm and Thomas Bruch, earned top honors for lifestyles section.

State Journal-Register sportswriter Dave Kane received a first-place award from the Illinois APME for sports feature writing.

UMG members also won dozens of second-place, third-place and honorable mention citations from the IPA and Illinois APME.

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TNG honors Shannon Duffy with movement builder award

Jun 8, 2015 by

Duffy1United Media Guild business representative Shannon Duffy has remained on the forefront of movement building during his long career in organized labor.

His tenure at UMG has featured closer interaction with activists at Missouri Jobs with Justice, Mid-South Organizing Committee and Workers Interfaith Network. Duffy has volunteered untold hours helping many other progressive groups in their fight for economic and social equality.

So it was only fitting that The News Guild honored Duffy with its first Larry Cohen Movement Builder award at the national Communications Workers of America convention in Detroit.

This prestigious national award is named after retiring CWA president Larry Cohen, who has championed coalition building between organized labor, faith groups and various social activism groups.

Cohen was on hand for the presentation from TNG-CWA president Bernie Lunzer, who originally brought Duffy into the Guild as in support of workers fighting for a contract at the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Duffy’s ability to build public support for those newspaper employees brought him to the attention of UMG, then known as the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. Since his hiring as business representative we have broadened our membership and support bases in this region.

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UMG brings employee concerns to top GateHouse executives

May 29, 2015 by

Business representative Shannon Duffy offered this report on UMG’s excursion to New York City:

New Media Investment Group, the umbrella corporation which controls GateHouse Media, held its first shareholder’s meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, May 21, in a conference room of the Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

The meeting was chaired by (former GateHouse CEO and present) New Media CEO Michael Reed and those in attendance included GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis, GateHouse CFO Greg Freiberg and GateHouse General Counsel Polly Sack. Also present were two GateHouse employees from Guild-represented newspapers: State Journal-Register Unit Chair Dean Olsen, Peoria Journal Star activist Matt Buedel and myself.

Prior to the meeting, we took a few minutes to look over some of the printed material that the company had put out and Dean noted that two photos on the cover of their annual report were from SJ-R stories. Some of those in attendance heard this and were full of praise for the work done there. In fact, to be honest, they seemed quite proud of all their properties (I should be more cynical, know, but I’m giving you my honest impressions). Milling about, Dean Olsen and I met GateHouse CFO Greg Freiberg and had a discussion about the newspaper industry in general and GateHouse in particular. We also discussed all the recent acquisitions. Initially, Freiberg seemed taken aback when we identified ourselves but when we informed him we weren’t there to throw rocks he seemed relieved. Actually, Freiberg was extremely civil and, as he walked away, a nice looking guy who had observed our conversation, came up and introduced himself. It was Kirk Davis.

Davis was civil as well and, I thought, surprisingly candid. We discussed all the recent acquisitions and he was of the opinion that once all media corporations finish spinning off newspapers and the field is comprised of “pure players” then more companies will start buying up newspapers. He said then mergers and bigger acquisitions were likely until there’s only around “three or four” companies left. I asked, “You see GateHouse then as being one of the survivors?” and he said he hoped that was the case but that such things depend on investor satisfaction. He spoke about some of the other challenges in the industry and recounted a trip to Chicago where he pushed back against national advertisers who appeared to be trying to ‘get well’ by forcing newspapers to reduce their rates. Facts, sales figures and stock prices were effortlessly recalled and it was clear that GateHouse has a seriously engaged CEO.

We took that opportunity to let Davis know why we were there. We informed him that we also wanted to see the company succeed but that there were areas where we disagreed about how to achieve success. We spoke about retention and the challenge of hanging on to qualified journalists who know and understand the communities they serve. We spoke of the role institutional knowledge plays in producing quality journalism and how the lack of it damages the product and leads to a decline in readership. We stated our position, which is that if you want to see the company prosper and your investment pay off over the long haul, you need to start reinvesting in employees.

Davis said, “You’re mostly about raises, right?” I said, “Yes.”

Davis said that wages wasn’t something that they had quite figured out yet (or words very close to that) and we told him that it needed to be addressed. I said that we were getting tired of hearing “If people don’t like what they’re getting paid here, they can leave” and he seemed to wince a little, saying he hoped that no one at GateHouse ever said such a thing at negotiations. I told him that we hear that every time we sit down.

Shareholder’s meetings typically run less than an hour and this one was no different, clocking in at just over 25 minutes. Another typical component is happy talk about how well a company is performing, although in this case some of that talk can be backed up with a strong cash flow and stock dividends. Still, first quarter earnings per share was less than predicted and many wonder if all the new acquisitions – with talk of more acquisitions – is a winning strategy.

Reed ran the meeting and noted that New Media was strongly positioned for the future. In the Q & A that came next, ours were the only questions put to Reed. Buedel led off asking for an explanation of just which company he worked for and how they were structured. Reed explained that New Media is the umbrella company that owns GateHouse and that GateHouse is the entity that has the employees. Buedel also asked if GateHouse wasn’t in danger of acquiring too much debt once again and Reed countered that by saying that the monies to buy additional properties came from stock offerings, not loans like before. I rose, introduced the three of us there and explained that we were there as investors. I said that the Guild and its members understand that our fates are intertwined (*NOTE: that was the headline on our flyer) and we understood that it was in our best interest for GateHouse/New Media to succeed. We were glad to learn that things were going so well but hearing all this good news and learning of the executive bonuses and shareholder dividends that accompanied it, we wondered why the hardworking men and women at the GateHouse properties were not sharing in that success. We reminded everyone that they played an important role. I said again that we were there as stockholders and we had a flyer to hand out that questioned – from an investors point of view – the wisdom of continuing such a course of action.

Reed thanked us for our comments and following the meeting, while Dean Olsen and I handed out flyers and chatted with the few people in the room, Matt Buedel went over and discussed the current state of affairs at the Peoria Journal Star with Reed.

It remains to be seen whether or not our trip will have any impact on the state of affairs that currently exists at GateHouse properties. Only time will tell. We stated our case in a clear, concise manner and, hopefully, the company understands that we’re not trying to destroy anything here; that we, like them, are more interested in building things than knocking them down and that building things to last a long time is the best way to go. I also hope that they finally understand that their employees deserve a lot more than they’re getting now and that something needs to be done about it. Soon.

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