Lee executives rake in millions

Jan 19, 2015 by Jeff

Life is good at the top for Lee Enterprises executives. With the company’s debt somewhat under control after successful refinancing efforts, CEO Mary Junck got a hefty increase in total compensation in 2014.

She earned a shade under $3 million — $2,827,705, according to the company’s proxy statement. That included a $1,150,000 bonus.

Chief Financial Officer Carl Schmidt received a total of $1,267,840, up from just $728,310 in 2013. He collected a $533,000 bonus.

Thus enriched, Schmidt announced his retirement as of July 1.

“Lee is in a very good place,” Schmidt said in a statement released by Lee. “Our long-term financing is set through 2022, and we have built a solid foundation for the future. As a result, it allows me an opportunity to spend more time closer to, and with, my growing family, give something back through volunteering and otherwise accomplish a few of the things on my must do list.”

The United Media Guild wishes Carl nothing but the best. And if for some reason Lee Enterprises reneges on his retirement package, the UMG will be glad to assist his recovery efforts.

We know a pretty good lawyer.

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UMG to hold Local Meeting Jan. 29

Jan 13, 2015 by Jeff

The United Media Guild will hold its quarterly Local Meeting and Annual Awards Presentation Jan. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m at Lombardo’s Trattoria, 201 South 20th St. in downtown St. Louis (in the Drury Inn next to Union Station).

All members in good standing are invited to attend. Appetizers and beverages will be served. Please RSVP to the Guild office by Jan. 19 by calling 314-241-7046314-241-7046.

The UMG will update members on Local activities and finances. We will present our service awards for Solidarity,  Steward of the Year, Activist of the Year and Guilder of the Year.

We will honor quality journalism by giving the Terry Hughes Award to a St. Louis-area reporter. The winner was selected by a panel of past Hughes winners.

We will also present a John McGuire Award for outstanding career achievement in the field of journalism.

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NLRB investigates new unfair labor practices at the Rockford Register Star

Jan 5, 2015 by Jeff

The National Labor Relations Board will have a field investigator in Rockford this week to probe management actions at the Register Star.

The United Media Guild believes Register Star managers are harassing unit chair Max Gersh due to his union activities. It filed still another complaint with the NLRB, prompting a new investigation.

Once again the newspaper unfairly singled out Gersh for disciplinary action in the midst of negotiations for a first contract at the Register Star.

Earlier the NLRB found that the Register Star committed unfair labor practices relating to Gersh, the scheduling the photography department and the threatened outscourcing of all photography work.

The Register Star’s parent company, GateHouse Media, contested that ruling. The NLRB will hold a hearing on that matter in Peoria next month.

GateHouse Media is willing to spend thousands of dollars defending these allegations, but so far the company is unwilling to offer raises to employees working under perpetual wage freezes.

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UMG negotiates raises at St. Louis Review

Dec 16, 2014 by Jeff

United Media Guild members at the St. Louis Review ratified a new five-year contract that maintains strong jurisdiction language and provides increases to the pay scales.

A Scale Senior Journalists with five years of experience got a 3 percent increase with the ratification of this contract. They will also get 3 percent increases on the first two anniversaries of the contract, pushing the top weekly minimum salary to $1,447.73.

The pay scale for reporters with less than five years of experience increased by 3 percent upon the ratification of the contract and a each of the five anniversary dates.

For instance, in the fifth contract year, a reporter in his or her first year of experience would earn at least $1,252.45 per week — up from a minimum of $1,048.91 in the previous contract.

This contract also introduced a new classification: B Scale Journalist. This eight-year experience scale features minimum salaries ranging from $800.00 to $937.33 upon ratification to a range of $927.42 to $1,086.62 in the final year of the contract.

(Negotiations between the UMG and the Review defined the distinction in duties between A Scale Senior Journalists and B Scale Journalists.)

The contract also capped health insurance premium cost share increases to 5 percent during the length of the contract.

Given the constant change in the media industry, the UMG believed it was paramount to have strong jurisdiction language. If weekly Review publication is moved to or is replaced by another publication format within the Archdiocese, the contract says “the employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement will continue to be the primary producers of the work.”

Thanks to UMG Second Vice President Joe Kenny, Review Unit Chair Lisa Johnston and Review negotiating team member Stephen Kempf for their excellent work on behalf of their fellow members.

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Nominations for the 23rd Annual Terry Hughes Award

Dec 8, 2014 by Jeff

Terry Hughes was 36 when she died of breast cancer on July 22, 1991.  A columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, her writing was clear, witty and descriptive, with a flair for portraying society’s underdogs.  Some of her columns chronicled the bouts with cancer that she and others faced.  One column was credited with helping persuade the Missouri Legislature to approve a bill forcing insurers to pay for mammograms.

One of the many readers who wrote to the newspaper after her death described her work this way: “Her columns were full of real life stories that touched us all and even changed our way of thinking or even our lives.”

The United Media Guild has established a writing award in the name of Ms. Hughes.  The award is intended to honor a journalist whose writing shows the talent that she displayed.

Any journalist in the metropolitan St. Louis area who has written for a daily or weekly newspaper or for a magazine is eligible.  Online publications are eligible as well.

Single articles of extraordinary merit will be considered.  Preference will be given to entries of between three and ten articles that display the writer’s range of talent.

Articles must have been published in 2014.  There are no formal applications.  Anyone may submit a nomination by sending copies of articles to:

The Terry Hughes Award Committee

United Media Guild

1015 Locust St.

Suite 735

St. Louis, Mo.  63101


The deadline for applications is Friday, January 2, 2015.  The panel of judges is comprised of previous award winners. The award will be presented by the United Media Guild at its quarterly Local Meeting in late January.

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NLRB charges GateHouse with labor law violations at Rockford Register Star

Dec 8, 2014 by Jeff

The National Labor Relations Board has charged GateHouse Media Illinois Holdings Inc. with multiple violations of the National Labor Relations Act for management actions at the Rockford Register Star.

The NLRB investigated a complaint filed by the United Media Guild and found merit on several points:

  • GateHouse retaliated against our members after the UMG objected to unilateral changes to how photographers were to be scheduled. By labor law, such changes must be negotiated due to the status quo protections for working conditions during a initial contract negotiation. When the UMG would not agree to the changes, the NLRB charged that the newspaper “threatened employees and announced that it would change its policy regarding the ability of employees to alter schedules.”
  • GateHouse took that action in a letter to employees, the NLRB charged, “in order to undermine the (UMG)’s status as the employees’ bargaining representative.”
  • At the bargaining table GateHouse subsequently proposed that it have the right to outsource all photography-related work. The NLRB charged the company with doing so “because the employees . . . formed, joined and assisted the Union and engaged in concerted activities, and to discourage employees in these activities.”
  • By doing so, GateHouse “has failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the Union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the Unit.”

The NLRB proposed remedies to settle these charges, but GateHouse Media declined. A company that steadfastly refuses to end its seven-year wage freeze will have no trouble running up a big legal bill defending itself in this case.

A hearing on these charges is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. in Peoria.

In the meantime, the NLRB will begin investigating a new UMG complaint about GateHouse actions in Rockford. In our filing we argue that the newspaper has twice singled out unit chair Max Gersh for disciplinary action because of his union activities.

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UMG mourns the loss of Post-Dispatch columnist

Dec 4, 2014 by Jeff

The United Media Guild has lost one of its best and most prominent members. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell passed away after a short battle with cancer.

One story tells you everything you need to know about the kind of co-worker Bryan was at the P-D.

Here goes:

Bryan was one of the most prominent sports journalists of his era. He worked the New York Daily News, the Detroit News and USA Today before coming to the Post-Dispatch. He had a high-profile television career, too, working for HBO and ESPN, among others. He wrote books and hosted radio shows.

You can’t get much bigger than Bryan in the media business. The man did it all and then some.

And yet during our previous contract battle with Lee Enterprises, he told us “If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.”

A lot of people say that, of course, but with Bryan we knew he was sincere. That is just the kind of person he is. So we called on him.

One member of the Lee board is a prominent sports figure. Bryan knew him pretty well. We asked Bryan to track down this man and chat about our contract fight. He gladly took the assignment.

This particular board member did not want to engage the conversation — no surprise there! — but this personal contact was just one more piece of a very involved campaign. We eventually settled the contract, keeping important protections that kept Post-Dispatch journalists in a much better place than most of their colleagues.

When your most prominent members look out for the others, you have a strong local union. The Post-Dispatch has had a strong tradition of that sort of support. Bryan Burwell was just another huge example of that.

But that is just how Bryan was. Despite all of his success, he was about as well-liked as anybody could be in such a treacherous business.

He always looked out for colleagues. He always had time for others.

The UMG will be forever grateful for his membership.



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New Media/GateHouse keeps buying and slashing

Dec 1, 2014 by Jeff

The vulture capitalists at New Media Investment Group/GateHouse Media are at again.

The same folks who built the GateHouse Media empire — before running it into bankruptcy and blowing through $1 billion in debt — are building an even bigger media empire. In their latest move, the company bought the Halifax Media Group for $280 million.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, in particular, will be a huge addition for the company. It will help New Media/GateHouse to control much of Massachusetts outside of Boston.

Although Halifax has been a relentless cost-cutter, this acquisition could cost even more journalists their jobs due to the inevitable consolidation of Halifax and New Media/GateHouse operations. New Media/GateHouse will continue outsourcing local jobs to its central design house in Austin, Texas.

While the Halifax deal was going down, long-time Gatehouse executive Brad Dennison abruptly resigned his post as Senior Vice President of Publishing.

Dennison supported quality journalism on his watch and made some outstanding managerial hires. Earlier this year he brokered a peaceful contract extension with our members at the Peoria Journal Star — a deal which allowed the newspaper to keep its copy desk through the length of the extension.

The United Media Guild was sorry to see him leave the company. There was no doubting Dennison’s passion for the media business. With Dennison gone, we’re guessing the company will become even more committed to funneling money out of its markets at the expense of good journalism and community service.

So we’re advising the folks working at Halifax properties to be wary of the happytalk GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis offered up to employees:

Your reputation for journalistic excellence is inspiring to us; the Pulitzer Prize winning series in Tuscaloosa and Sarasota set a high bar. We also believe that the strength of your brands will support and add depth to our community publishing model. We look forward to partnering with you to leverage our respective strengths, so that together, we may continue our commitment to community news and service.

With this acquisition, we will operate newspapers and associated websites across 31 states in over 400 markets. We are committed to investing in our markets; recent research initiatives are informing changes to our local news products, both print and digital. We launched Propel Marketing, our fast growing digital marketing services agency, to provide a broader range of solutions for our small and mid-size business customers.

I’m certain you have many questions about benefits and the transition process; we will provide more information over the coming weeks. There is also much to share on programs and resources we can provide and collaborate on. Prior to completing the purchase, we expect to engage with your senior management team as we think about the transition and evaluate current priorities, trends and ideas.

We’re looking forward to working together!

Until you’re laid off or you quit in exasperation, that is.

Check out some recent comments former GateHouse employees left on the Glassdoor website:

“Pay is below industry standards, especially for location. Lots of turnover, low morale. Directives from national corporate are tone-deaf to regional consumers, workload of staff. Equipment and technology embarrassingly inadequate, outdated.”

“This is a turn and burn place. Everybody comes and leaves like crazy. They do not give raises and will treat you like nothing at all. The do not care at all about you. They have products that do not work and would rather sell to new customers than retain old ones. I have actually seen high ups from this company lie under oath to protect the profits of this company.”

“Many employees will do everything it takes to get their jobs done, even when they are visibly given too much to do (as the company continually cuts positions). They take their work home. They blur the lines for hours worked overtime, because management will harass them if they log any overtime hours.”

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