UMG members win Pulitzer Prize

Apr 20, 2015 by

FergusonThe United Media Guild congratulates its members whose work earned the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The staff photographers covered the social unrest that followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson last August. The photo staff consists of chief photographer J.B. Forbes, photographers David Carson, Robert Cohen, Cristina Fletes-Boutte, Christian Gooden, Chris Lee, Huy Mach and Laurie Skrivan; and director of photography Lynden Steele; photo editor Hilary Levin; and Gary Hairlson, director of video.

“I am extremely proud of our photo staff for their coverage of the protests in Ferguson, and I am happy they have received this recognition,” Steele told the Post-Dispatch.

“From August through November, the photographers displayed an amazing commitment to covering this story. They were tireless, brave, and dogged in their reporting. At the height of the protests, eight staff photographers covered Ferguson from 6:30 a.m. until about 3 a.m. They built relationships in the community, followed leads and made great, story-telling pictures.

“The photographs capture the anger, conflict and tragedy of the events that have ripped the bandaid off of the race conversation in St. Louis, and started new conversations about policing, local government and municipal courts.”

Carson, who also serves as this Local’s vice-president, said of the award,  “It’s sad that all this stemmed from someone losing their life but our photographers did a fantastic job of making it all real for our community.  At a time when slashing photo staffs is in vogue, this demonstrates the value of professional photojournalists on a newsroom staff.”

Carson expressed his gratitude and admiration for not only his photography colleagues but for the newsroom as a whole.  “You couldn’t ask more from such hardworking professionals.  The way they responded was everything you would hope for in coverage of such a major news event.”

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Freeport and Rockford select stewards

Apr 20, 2015 by

On Sunday, April 19, members of the Rockford Register Star/ Freeport Journal Standard unit held a meeting to nominate and elect stewards.  Turnout was good, nominations were plenty and when the dust finally settled and the votes tallied, the results were as follows:

At the Rockford Register Star:

Max Gersh (steward by virtue of the unit chair position)

Brian Leaf (steward due to vice chair position)

Paula Buckner

Matt Trowbridge

At the Freeport Journal Standard:

Karen Patterson

The Guild thanks everyone who expressed interest in helping and, to those who were elected – congratulations!

Stewards are your pipeline to Guild support!  They are available if you are in need of assistance in any situation that involves your wages, your benefits or your working conditions.  They are the eyes and ears of the Guild in your workplace.

Those elected will receive training to provide them with the tools they need to perform their new roles.


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No buyouts planned for Post-Dispatch newsroom

Apr 2, 2015 by

A recent Post-Dispatch layoff included three Guild members in advertising-related jobs. This layoff did not extend to the newsroom, but the Guild had informal discussions with the company about potential severance buyouts for veteran journalists.

If fact, the company encouraged journalists interested in leaving to contact management within a two-week period. Several of our members expressed interest.

But then the company told our members that no buyouts would be offered. Post-Dispatch publisher Ray Farris issued this statement to employees Thursday:

“Addressing any uncertainty, we currently have no plans for newsroom staff reductions or buyout offers. I appreciate your continuous hard work and dedication to our print and digital products.”

Guild business representative Shannon Duffy, Post-Dispatch unit chair Joe Holleman, UMG president Jeff Gordon and UMG vice president David Carson met with company officials after that surprising announcement.

We encouraged the company to reconsider its position on voluntary buyouts for Guild members, particularly with bargaining for a new collective bargaining agreement set to begin in a few months.

We believe our long-time journalists have earned the buyout consideration through decades of service. We also believe the Post-Dispatch would benefit by gaining long-range cost reduction and staffing flexibility.

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Save the SJ-R campaign gathering momentum

Mar 21, 2015 by

Our public campaign for a fair contract at the State Journal-Register in Springfield is gathering steam.

Anybody interested in support our fight to protect great journalism that important newspaper can visit our Save the SJ-R blog.

You can follow the fight on Twitter @savethesjr and like our campaign on Facebook.

Here is the first radio ad the United Media Guild started to run in Springfield. This ad will continue to run in that market and another ad is on the way.

Here is a Springfield television report on our public campaign:

The New York-based owner of the highly profitable SJ-R, the New York-based New Media Investment Group/GateHouse Media, has slashed the news-gathering operation in Springfield to a fraction of its former size. It has enforced a general wage freeze for more than seven years and hired new reporters at barely liveable wages.

Jim Romenesko has also chronicled the plight of our Springfield unit chair, Dean Olsen, on his influential media blog.

Romenesko also updated his readers in media circles on Olsen’s plight and our public campaign against GateHouse.

The Illinois Times was one of the media outlets covering our earlier public demonstration in Springfield. Here was that report.

Recently the Boston Globe profiled the success of GateHouse Media/New Media Investment Group but noted the downside of cost-cutting for newspapers like the State Journal-Register.

The money quote came from a decorated reporter who left another GateHouse newspaper after being denied a modest raise: “GateHouse is to journalism like what Olive Garden is to Italian food.”

Romenesko told the story of that reporter.

He also covered the carnage at Halifax newspapers purchased by New Media Investment Group and placed under GateHouse management.

Our colleagues at the Providence Journal suffered quite a bloodletting at the hands of GateHouse management after New Media bought that newspaper last year.

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Post-Dispatch Unit begins formulating negotiating demands

Mar 18, 2015 by

Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the Post-Dispatch, has emerged from bankruptcy and successfully refinanced its debt into more favorable terms. It continues to pay down the debt with positive cash flow and reward its top executives with hefty bonuses.

With our current collective bargaining agreement for the P-D unit set to expire Sept. 27, the United Media Guild will focus on economics in the coming negotiations. Our members took pay cuts and endured unpaid furloughs in the previous contract.

We hoped to minimize layoffs as Lee navigated through its serious economic crisis. Despite gaining the concessions, the company continued reducing our workforce as revenues declined. Those remaining at the P-D have taken on more and more responsibility.

Our surviving journalists keep doing award-winning work despite losing significant earning power. Our surviving salespersons keep striving to meet challenging goals in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

So our top objective for the next contract will be to improve the pay scales for our hourly employees and to gain additional commission, bonus and territory/client list safeguards for our salespersons to stabilize their earnings.

We will survey our salespeople about particular concerns that must be addressed in bargaining. We will survey all of our members to see how they prioritize these potential negotiating points:

  • Maintaining our current cost share percentage for health insurance premiums.
  • Lowering the percentage cap to the year-to-year increases in our share of those premiums.
  • Improving maternity/paternity leave.
  • Increasing the company’s 401K contributions.
  • Thawing the frozen Pulitzer Pension Plan.
  • Increasing the member life insurance coverage.
  • Increasing the shift pay differential for working in a higher classification.
  • Increasing the shift pay differential for filling in for a supervisor.
  • Improving the cell phone reimbursement allowance and policy.
  • Improving mileage reimbursement.
  • Improving the car allowance for those eligible.
  • Improving the company’s vacation-scheduling system to make it more equitable.
  • Improving vacation call-back protections.
  • Reducing the 12-month limit on employees being forced to work outside of their classification.
  • Limiting the number of shifts reporters must work on the copy desk.
  • Gaining additional holidays, personal days and vacation time.
  • Gaining additional sick days for newer employees.
  • Improving severance for newer employees who are laid off.
  • Extending lay-off call-back requirements from 18 months to 24 months.

Soon our stewards will distribute negotiating surveys to our members. Our bargaining committee will consider the results of the survey while setting our negotiating priorities.

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Members sought for Post-Dispatch bargaining committee

Mar 10, 2015 by

The United Media Guild would like to get a head start on negotiations for a new contract for our Post-Dispatch unit and Lee Enterprises.

So we are seeking volunteers to serve on our bargaining committee. Here is how the process will work:

  • The bargaining committee will oversee general unit meetings to hear the concerns of our membership and set the general priorities for bargaining.
  • Business representative Shannon Duffy will serve as our lead negotiator in bargaining, which we hope to begin this summer.
  • Duffy will craft our opening proposal with guidance from the negotiating committee, our lawyers and members of The News Guild’s national staff.
  • Post-Dispatch unit chair Joe Holleman will chair the negotiating committee and serve as the point person for the group at the table.
  • Business representative Mary Casey, UMG president Jeff Gordon and UMG vice president David Carson will be involved in negotiations as well.
  • Any other member of the bargaining committee can participate directly the negotiations, but not every committee member will not be involved in all the sessions. We usually rotate committee members in and out, depending on circumstances. From time to time we may bring in other unit members and put them on the committee to address a particular issue.
  • The bargaining committee will meet regularly to discuss the progress of negotiations and formulate general strategy.
  • The bargaining committee will vote on whether to tentatively agree to a contact proposal and bring it to the entire unit for a vote — or reject the proposal without bringing it to our members.

Interested members should contact Shannon or Mary at the UMG office at 314-241-7046.



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Negotiations thaw: Guild withdraws ULP charges in Rockford / agreements reached on multiple issues

Mar 5, 2015 by


During last week’s negotiations, the Guild and the Rockford Register Star/Freeport Journal Standard were able to come to terms on a number of issues.  One such issue was the settlement of the Unfair Labor Practice charges that the Guild filed late last year and which were headed for an April hearing at the National Labor Relations Board sub region office in Peoria.  Those charges were settled amicably along with some other issues as well.

Newsroom reorganization was addressed and the Guild signed off on numerous proposed schedule changes the company had requested with two caveats:

  • No one will be required to work a split shift unless a department emergency exists as defined by management.  Anyone who is required to work a split shift will be paid $20 differential for the day.  Anyone who requests to work a split shift or schedules their day as such will not be paid the differential.
  • While the number of people required to work weekends will increase, the paper has agreed that, as they come on board, newly hired journalists will be inserted into and share equally in the weekend rotation to reduce the number of weekend days Guild members must work (there was also talk of new hires possibly only having part of a weekend off to help alleviate that matter).

This takes effect immediately, btw.


Agreed-upon issues taking immediate effect is not that common during bargaining.  Typically, things are tentatively agreed to (or “TA’d”) and collected.  Then, when all issues have been settled, they comprise what becomes the new contract.  A ratification vote is set and, if approved by the membership, the contract is signed and goes into effect.

Part of the reason things are happening now is because the paper wants the newsroom changes to occur as soon as possible, as they believe this will give them what they need to be successful.  And this seems like the ideal time to state – clearly and unambiguously – what we hope everyone understands and that is that this union wants your paper to succeed.  In fact, we want it to be wildly successful.  Anyone with any sense understands that our fates are intertwined.  However, the Guild also believes that such success needs to be rewarded with fair pay and working conditions.

Another immediate change concerns Grievance and Arbitration language which the parties negotiated in late 2013.  Like the schedule changes, this will no longer wait for the entire contract to be negotiated and ratified before taking effect, which means someone with a complaint – or who perhaps was disciplined – can now grab a Guild Steward (more about that in a minute) and file a grievance.  And, if that grievance is not settled to their and the union’s satisfaction, the decision can be appealed and the parties will appear before a third party neutral, whose ruling shall be binding (details about all this will be distributed by your unit officers).

Having the ability to enter into arbitration to settle differences is huge and offers our members a level of protection on the job that they’ve not had before.  Obviously we hope that things never get to that point and that such safeguards are not needed or utilized.  But having such a system in place goes a long way in making sure workers are treated fairly and equitably.

We also TA’d Security language, which states that “management will provide fair treatment to all employees and provide coaching that is prompt, uniform and impartial.”  It provides for progressive discipline, just cause and the guarantee that employees past infractions cannot be used against them if they’ve gone 24 months without a repeat offense.

There was also an agreement on the scope of the bargaining unit and Union Business.  We agreed to having five stewards – two of which are to be permanently affixed to the Unit Chair and Vice Chair positions.  That leaves three – two to be elected from the workers at the Rockford Register Star and one from the Freeport Journal Standard – and we will soon announce a unit meeting to hold nominations for those steward positions.  If there is the same number of nominations as positions, those nominated will assume the office of steward.  If there are more nominations than positions, an election by secret ballot will be held at that same meeting.

Following steward elections, this Local will set a date to conduct joint steward training with all our Illinois bargaining units.  The city, date and time for that training has yet to be decided.

These are hopeful times.  While GateHouse seems to have turned a corner by announcing its strong financial position, a new atmosphere seems to have settled over our bargaining table.  Here’s to that continuing and to both parties working together to secure a brighter future for us all.



Shannon Duffy


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Pekin Daily Times ratifies new contract

Mar 2, 2015 by


Tuesday, February 24, UMG members of the Pekin Daily Times unit voted to ratify a new two-year agreement.  The vote occurred at two meetings – noon and 6:00 p.m. – held in a private room of Goodfella’s restaurant.

The agreement includes a signing bonus, a ceiling on health care premium increases, continuation of outsourcing limitations and the retention of the commission sales program for current advertising sales representatives.  A big thank you to our bargaining team there (shout out to Sharon Harris and Miranda Henderson!).

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