New contract ratified

All five Chicago Newspaper Guild (CNG) bargaining units voted to ratify the Contract Extension Agreement reached with Sun-Times Media management. The three-year contract was reached after 15 months of negotiations. Four of the 17 photographers protected by Chicago Newspaper Guild will also get their jobs back as art of a settlement reached that was part of the package deal with the company.

“I think it’s great. Not everyone was happy, but I think all five units understood the dynamics of what this contract agreement means. It means presence in the newsroom by union-proud employees, including some photographers. I think bringing some photographers back is a big win,” said CNG President David Pollard.

CNG represents about 125 members at the five bargaining units in Sun-Times Media: the Chicago Sun-Times, Pioneer Press, the Gary Post-Tribune, the Joliet Herald-News and Lake County News-Sun.  Member ratification meetings were held Monday, Dec. 2 and Tuesday, Dec. 3. Voting results are as follows: Chicago Sun-Times 34 votes in favor, 10 opposed; Pioneer Press 13 voted in favor, 4 opposed; Gary Post-Tribune 11 voted in favor, 1 opposed; Joliet Herald-News 5 voted in favor, none opposed; Lake County News-Sun 4 voted in favor. While the majority of the membership voted on the contract, 100 percent of the Guild was not able to attend the ratification meetings

All five bargaining units had to ratify the contract extension for it to take effect. About 54 percent of the Guild’s membership—67 members—voted in favor of the contract agreement.

“In the context of an uncertain and harsh economic climate in the newspaper industry, the Chicago Newspaper Guild was able to reach significant gains in its new ratified contract with Sun-Times Media. Our gains at the bargaining table show that when professional journalists ban together collectively, they can achieve economic gains and job protections even in the midst of the harsh economic realities in the newspaper industry,” CNG Executive Director Craig Rosenbaum said.

The Contract Extension Agreement returns two furlough weeks, provides for a 2 percent raise on July 1, 2016, enhances severance, provides more job security.  The contract extension would be in effect through Dec. 31, 2016.

The agreement also settled the Guild filed with National Labor Relations Board. The Guild will withdraw the charges. In return for the Aggrego charge, any Pioneer Press editorial assistant laid off as a result of Aggrego will receive 13 weeks of severance.  Four of the 17 Guild photographers will be brought back to work within 90 days of the contract’s ratification, meaning the company has until March 3 to reinstate four photographers. Any photographer not returning to work will receive a lump sum of $2,000 if an individual photographer waives his or her individual legal rights to initiate legal action against the company. (To clarify, the settlement was part of a package deal reached with Sun-Times Media but was not part of the new contract itself.)

The contract extension keeps CNG and Sun-Times Media management at the bargaining table to create one collective bargaining agreement for all five bargaining units. Each of the five bargaining units currently has its own contract.

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