Valentine’s Day Phone Call

by Bailey Rookard

Ring, ring. Ring, ring. It was Valentine’s Day and I was itching to drop the L-word. What if he picks up? What if he doesn’t? All my carefully constructed conversational points flew out of my head and my notes looked like gibberish. A male voice came on the line and I panicked until I realized he was a recorded voice telling me to leave a message.

“I’m contacting you today, Valentine’s Day, because I wanted to let you know that I love my job as a staff writer. What I don’t love is working without a fair contract. Please call me to discuss,” I said and left my phone number.

He has not returned my call or follow-up email. So far, Sun-Times Media CEO Tim Knight has not returned any phone calls.

We as a Guild reached out on Valentine’s Day to ask him to show us some love. We all showed the company love when we took our 15 percent pay cuts, our two furlough weeks and allowed the company to lay us off at will during bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is over but the cuts linger. I know I’m not the only Guild member suffering with an emaciated wallet.

I would love my CEO explain the company’s actions toward us hard-working Guild members. I’m disappointed he didn’t call me back. But I am glad I got to express my feelings and that I wasn’t the only one. The fight for a fair contract continues, but we fight together.

Here are some snippets from what some guild members said/wrote to our CEO on Valentine’s Day:

>>>Pioneer Press reporter called four times throughout the day. He got a full voice mail box.

>>>A suburban reporter left a message with Mr. Knight’s secretary asking to discuss a fair contract. She left her name and personal cell phone number.

>>>Another suburban reporter and Guild Unit president emailed in part:
Hello Mr. Knight:
…despite our sacrifices, the company at its core is weak, not strong. Morale is as low as I have ever seen it. Both your workers and your own managers are underpaid and feel undervalued. I was recently told by an exempt employee, “It’s a job.” That kind of thinking is not a healthy barometer for any business.

An untold number of your employees cannot afford to send their children to college, are losing their homes, buy their clothing at the Salvation Army and rely on food pantries for their groceries, while the company spends freely to purchase new properties, lure celebrities
and invest in new products.

The news is a business that can’t be run just for profit. It’s a sacred trust. Our country, our towns and neighborhoods depend on accurate, ethical, objective reporting, editing, photography and the commitment of many other highly-skilled workers.

We are hard-working, dedicated professionals, Mr. Knight. We want STM to succeed, to reach new heights, to be a company we can all be proud of.

>>>A fairly new Pioneer Press reporter left Mr. Knight this in her voice mail:
“Even though I’ve been doing [this job] for such a short time, I’m not sure I will be.

The reason is that I’ve seen the way journalists are treated in our company and the treatment is deplorable. In addition to the low wages which are barely enough to pay one’s costs of living, we are not treated as serious partners in the decisions made about our news product. Being treated as serious partners means participating in the decision-making process and it means management being honest about the current conditions of our company. Being honest, by the way, means being specific. Being honest doesn’t mean making oblique references to being in the red without quantifying anything. Would we accept this kind of vague information in a news story? No way.

I understand my Guild has asked in negotiations to see Wrapports finances to determine if there is truly not enough money to grant us a fair contract. I also understand that the company has delayed and delayed this, for reasons that I can’t possibly understand. If you want us to continue sacrificing to keep the company solvent, then we have to know that you are asking for these sacrifices in good faith.”

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