Steward training weekend – A big success

Last weekend, the Guild hosted a successful steward training workshop. A big thank you goes out to CWA District 4 VP Linda Hinton for sending staff reps Jane Philips and Celia Cody.

CWA District 4 staff reps Jane Philips and Celia Cody shared their skills and experience with an attentive group of Local 34071 members.

We now have 20 newly trained officer/stewards equipped and ready to represent our members. Thank you to everybody who pitched in and made it a successful workshop.

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South Bend Tribune employees unite to protect local journalism

SOUTH BEND, Indiana  — The award-winning newsroom staff of the South Bend Tribune took a major step Wednesday toward forming a union to give a voice in the workplace to journalists who keep the community informed and who hold local leaders accountable. 

The vast majority of employees who contribute reporting, copy editing, page design and photography within The Tribune newsroom have signed cards indicating their desire to be represented by the ever-growing NewsGuild-CWA. The cards, submitted Wednesday at the National Labor Relations Board’s Indianapolis regional office, call for an election monitored by the NLRB at The Tribune in the next month unless the newspaper’s owner, Gannett, voluntarily recognizes The NewsGuild as the workers’ union.

If a majority of those casting ballots vote in favor, workers will begin negotiating with Gannett on their first labor contract.

The South Bend Tribune serves six counties in northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan. The South Bend NewsGuild would represent about 30 workers and would become the fourth active newspaper union in the state, following the Indianapolis Star, Terre Haute Tribune-Star and Gary Post-Tribune.

Members of the South Bend Tribune newsroom who intend to unionize say they are taking this step to preserve the vital role The Tribune plays in telling the stories of the communities they serve.

“I am supporting the organization of the journalists at the South Bend Tribune because I want us to be able to continue covering the community I call home to the best of our ability,” said Michael Caterina, photographer with The Tribune since 2016. “The writers, photographers, editors and designers who inform the Michiana area are some of the hardest-working, most loyal people I’ve ever met, and we deserve a voice when it comes to our employment.”

In its mission statement, the South Bend NewsGuild states it “seeks to preserve the South Bend Tribune as an independent, nonpartisan source of news and entertainment for our community, one that holds the powerful accountable, gives voice to the voiceless, and shares the stories that bind the community together.” 

Tyler James, a sports reporter with The Tribune since April 2012, said the newspaper “endured immense change in the past year. But I can say with certainty that The Tribune will continue to provide the journalism this community needs if the journalists tasked with doing so are given a voice in shaping its future. We are uniting as a union in the hope that we can protect The Tribune and help it thrive.”

For nearly its entire 148-year history, The Tribune was owned by a local family business that became Schurz Communications. Local ownership didn’t guarantee immunity from layoffs, pay cuts and production changes, but it meant the newspaper’s owners knew the people who worked for them and had to face the impact of their business decisions on readers.

In January 2019, The Tribune was acquired by GateHouse Media, one of the largest media companies in the country. Then, in November 2019, GateHouse merged with USA Today Network owner Gannett.

Under Gannett, The South Bend Tribune’s staff was transferred from a building that the newspaper had called home for nearly a century on Colfax Avenue in downtown South Bend. The paper now operates out of a transitional location at Union Station, 506 W. South St., while its new location at a former Studebaker building remains under construction.

In 10 months, the South Bend Tribune went from being locally owned to being a part of the largest newspaper company in American history, an organization based in suburban Washington, D.C. 

“I believe journalism still is the most effective community advocate, watchdog and voice with the capacity for sharing some of the best human-interest stories,” said Rochelle Day, a page designer with The Tribune for 12 years. “To fulfill those roles, and fulfill them well, a union is a great tool to advocate for adequate resources, discourage bottom-dollar decisions and protect workers from sudden staff reductions that are made without thorough consideration of other alternatives.”

Meet people behind the South Bend NewsGuild:

Interviews with key leaders from The South Bend Tribune newsroom staff can be arranged by contacting Justin Hawkins at 812-797-7345 or sbnewsguild@gmail.com. Hawkins also can arrange interviews with Jon Schleuss, president of The NewsGuild-CWA in Washington, D.C.

Understand what we want:

  • A seat at the table

Under the ownership of Gannett, we feel voiceless in the future of the newspaper. The success — past, present and future — of The South Bend Tribune depends on its staff. Without a voice in Gannett’s decision-making, we may be nothing more than names and numbers on a spreadsheet.

  • Strengthen the South Bend Tribune

We want to preserve the South Bend Tribune as an independent, nonpartisan source of news and entertainment for our community, one that holds the powerful accountable, gives voice to the voiceless, and shares the stories that bind the community together.

  • Fair wages, proper severance and stable benefits

We want to ensure the South Bend Tribune prioritizes the retention of its employees to prevent further damage to the quality of its product. A collectively bargained contract can provide The Tribune’s newsroom staff with fair wages, affordable health insurance and a reason to believe a sustained career with the paper is viable.

  • Workers’ rights preserved

The newsroom staff deserves the right to voice concerns about the workplace without fear of retaliation. We want those protections to be assured through a contract. A strong union can safeguard our independence. 

Connect with us:

The NewsGuild organizing campaign at the South Bend Tribune can be followed on the campaign’s website at www.southbendnewsguild.com or on Twitter at @sbnewsguild (#ProtectTheTribune). 

Attachments:

Click on this link — Attachments  — for access to headshots of people quoted in this news release, the logo being used by The South Bend NewsGuild organizing campaign and the campaign’s mission statement.

Mission Statement:

The South Bend NewsGuild seeks to preserve the South Bend Tribune as an independent, nonpartisan source of news and entertainment for our community, one that holds the powerful accountable, gives voice to the voiceless, and shares the stories that bind the community together. We are motivated not by any unhappiness with local management, but by the desire to strengthen our organization through collective action and support.

The union is us. Through collective action and democratic function, we fight most effectively for our common interests: dignified working conditions, ethical practices in our work, and resources that are adequate to carry out this critical mission.

About The NewsGuild-CWA:

The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 20,000 journalists and other media workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico at publications and digital sites that include The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The Indianapolis Star and Consumer Reports. Formerly known as The Newspaper Guild, the union was founded by journalists in 1933. The Guild merged with the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America in 1995.

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Union Plus Scholarship

Get Awarded up to $4,000 for College with the 2020 Union Plus ScholarshipCould you use up to $4,000 to help pay for your college education? If so, then don’t delay — there’s still time to apply for the 2020 Union Plus Scholarship.

Since 1991, the Union Plus Scholarship has awarded more than $4.5 million to students of over 3,000 union families, who want to begin or continue their post-secondary education.

Scholarship awards range from $500 to $4,000. If you’re looking for a way to bridge the financial gap in your education expenses, be sure to apply before the deadline.
Application deadline is January 31, 2020 — start online today!
https://www.unionplus.org/benefits/education/union-plus-scholarships?utm_source=solo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=01-13-20&link_id=1&can_id=2d765296c2b708fa5bf740062668595b&email_referrer=email_699512&email_subject=were-awarding-up-to-4000-for-college-with-the-union-plus-scholarshipLEARN MORE AND APPLY
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CNG President Grace Catania receives Charles B. Dale Guild Service Award at TNG Sector Conference

CNG Officers and members: Andy Grimm (VP), Craig Rosenbaum (Executive Director), Charlie Johnson (Tribune Guild), Grace Catania (President), Tyler Kissinger (Secretary), Elvia Malagon (Tribune Guild)
CNG Officers and members: Andy Grimm (VP), Craig Rosenbaum (Executive Director), Charlie Johnson (Tribune Guild), Grace Catania (President), Tyler Kissinger (Secretary), Elvia Malagon (Tribune Guild)

At the 2019 NewsGuild sector conference in Orlando, Chicago News Guild President Grace Catania received the Charles B. Dale Guild Service Award in honor of her tireless work in her union. CNG members are grateful to Grace for the continued leadership, advocacy, and passion she brings to our union as president of our local. Gratulacje, Grace!

Her nominating letter, submitted by CNG Vice President Andy Grimm, was read before the convention delegates as the award was announced. It can be read below:

“It is with great enthusiasm that I nominate Chicago News Guild President Grace Catania for the Charles B. Dale Guild Service Award.
The Chicago Guild has had so many successes to celebrate during Grace’s term as president of the local, including some landmark victories that the entire CWA-Guild family can draw inspiration and pride from:
In July 2016, Guild staff and Grace were able to recruit union investors to back the purchase of the Chicago Sun-Times and Reader, likely saving dozens of Guild jobs at the two publications. The Guild was able to sway the Justice Department to intervene in a proposed sale to our largest competitor, pulled together an investment group that included some of Chicago’s largest labor unions on a tight timeline— raising more than $11 million in an unprecedented deal that should be a model for struggling newspapers across the nation.
That huge achievement was followed a year later with a wildly successful organizing drive at the Tribune, which will add some 300 members to the Guild, and give voice to employees who have for years worked long hours, often going years without raises, and enduring the whims of increasingly off-kilter management. 
Grace, who rose into Guild leadership from the ranks of the Cook County court interpreters, was an ardent supporter of these two newspaper-centric efforts, despite the fact that her own local faced decimating job losses after county budget cuts. Those staff reductions that never happened in large part because of Guild lobbying of county officials to preserve the essential role of translators in the county justice system. Grace provided steadfast leadership and support to Guild staff and members of her own local— despite the fact that she was one of the workers who received a 30-day notice when the budget cuts were announced. It’s worth noting that after the Janus ruling allowed any member to stop the dues deduction from their paychecks, Grace’s unit lost only four members, a tribute, I believe, to the hard work by Grace and the Guild to preserve their jobs.
But beyond these noteworthy, even historic developments, Grace’s contribution to a renewed energy in Guild operations cannot be understated. Grace herself is a tireless volunteer to Guild activities and her boundless enthusiasm for the Guild and labor causes is contagious. Grace has twice hosted gatherings for members at her home, and is always looking to get Chicago Guild members to join her at rallies and marches across the city. 
Under her leadership, the Guild last year convened a committee to revamp our communications among the membership, and has committed each year to seeking out members with leadership potential and sending them to training. Last month, the Chicago Guild hosted stewards for interested unit members, the first time I can recall our local offering such training.
Grace also is an active member of the the national and regional Guild. She volunteered our local to host the Midwest Conference this fall, and, having attended several Midwest and District conferences myself, I have to say the Chicago conference in April was one of the most elaborately planned and productive sessions I’ve been to. Grace helped recruit panelists and secure a venue for a televised discussion about the future of newspapers, in addition to coordinating largely home-cooked food and snacks for attendees, and hosting the hospitality suite. Grace was elected Midwest president at the meeting, adding another title to her list of accomplishments within the Guild (did I mention she was chairwoman of the CWA National Women’s Committee at the 2017 TNG Conference?)
It is obvious to any one who knows her that Grace regards our local as a family, and her compassion for members and staff is one of the reasons she is such a great motivator. Attendance at our monthly board meetings has increased during her term as president, not least because meetings are moving more quickly— and possibly because Grace herself prepares meals for everyone who attends. Grace and her husband this summer hosted an Executive Board meeting at her home. She regularly pressures me, as treasurer, to find money to pay for social gatherings for members, arguing (correctly) that the personal connections between workers are what make us stronger as a union. With motherly warmth, she is forever scolding our executive director, Craig Rosenbaum, to straighten up the Guild offices and improve his diet.
Grace’s energy, organizational skills and charisma have been a large part of what I would consider a renaissance for the Chicago Guild in the last two years, despite years of lean times here. I cannot imagine a more deserving recipient of the Charles B. Dale Guild Service Award.”

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Kathryn Routliffe remembers Jerry Minkkinen

By Kathryn Routliffe

Jerry Minkkinen holding a union stewards’ workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my oldest and dearest union colleagues, Jerry Minkkinen, died Friday. I am still trying to come to grips with the news.

He was the first Newspaper Guild official I met when I was hired by Pioneer Press in 1983. He didn’t introduce me to unionism; I’d been a union officer at my previous newspaper job, and I already believed in the union movement. But he taught me so much about how to make day to day unions work for their members – for us – that it’s a debt I could never repay.

Jerry combined a street fighter’s instincts, with the seductive charm of a troubadour – he could hold a room in thrall, something I experienced many times – and the formula worked for us far more often than not, whether it was sitting at the table with successive waves of increasingly nasty management, fighting grievances on behalf of individuals or the union as a whole, or giving us tips on how to fight for ourselves. He did this not just for my section of the union but for every News Guild bargaining unit in the Chicago area. That’s a lot of work for one person.

More than that, though, he was a good man, who gave his all to the union. He sacrificed health and family through much of his career, in order to help us. I am glad to know that in the last few years, he had much joy of his family.

He laughed often, was kind, was both fierce and gentle, and I am honored that we were colleagues and friends. There is so much more than I could tell you about him, but it all jumbles up in a tremendous Jerry-sized pile of stories. None of them will make up for the Jerry-sized hole his passing has left.

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Longtime union negotiator for Sun-Times reporters and copy editors, dies at 73

By Mitch Dudek/Chicago Sun-Times

As head of the Chicago News Guild — the union that represents Chicago Sun-Times journalists — Jerry Minkkinen ran a bottom-up union that left big bargaining decisions in the hands of the reporters and editors they would affect.

Minkkinen was fierce at the negotiating table, and when he hammered out the best possible deal, he’d bring it back to union members for a vote.

In 2004, Minkkinen, through last-minute negotiations, was able to avoid a full-blown newsroom strike by winning 3 percent raises for three consecutive years, according to Craig Rosenbaum, who now heads up the Guild and considered Minkkinen a mentor.

“That was really the last good, solid contract we got,” Rosenbaum said. Subsequent contracts, he said, were negotiated under stormier skies as the news industry as a whole struggled to make money online.

Minkkinen, who was with the Guild from 1976 until his retirement in 2008, died Friday at his home in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates. He was 73. He died from complications due to esophageal cancer, which returned after Minkkinen successfully battled it into remission years earlier.

Ted Rilea sat across from Minkkinen at the bargaining table. Rilea, the former vice president of labor relations for the Sun-Times, represented the company’s owners.

“He knew when to fold ’em, as hopefully I did, too, so everyone could walk away with a win,” Rilea said. “He was a real gentleman and a pleasure to work with and against. He represented his people well.”

The pair became friends and shared a meal together a few weeks before Minkkinen died.

“He was smart. He was respectful. A lot of these labor leaders go crazy on you, and some of that is for show for their own members, but he never had to do that,” Rilea said. “When he lost it, it had been a long night, or day and night, and he was trying to get his point across. He yelled when he needed to yell, you paid attention to it, he didn’t waste it. He knew his business. He was an expert.”

Bob Mazzoni, a Sun-Times sports copy editor who is also a co-chair of the Sun-Times bargaining unit, said Minkkinen gave workers a sense they had a say in their destiny.

“I think he definitely made people feel like they could have a say in their working conditions, in their pay, a way to stand up for themselves at work,” he said.

Minkkinen’s honesty and resolve to stick to an agreed upon deal made an impression on Mazzoni. “One of the things he always said was the sign of a good negotiation was that everybody’s unhappy,” he said.

Minkkinen represented the Sun-Times and several other Chicago-area papers that were in the same union.

“His biggest contribution was the fact that he understood union democracy,” said Bernie Lunzer, president of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, the national union of which the Chicago News Guild is a part.

He represented a new way of operating a newspaper union that differed from the top down, the “we’ll take care of you” sort of leadership that “could be very despotic,” Lunzer said. “That was never the case for the Chicago Guild.”

Minkkinen’s bargaining accomplishments also aided journalists at the Chicago Tribune, even though Minkkinen was never successful at expanding the Guild into the Tribune newsroom, Lunzer said.

“The way they kept the Guild out oftentimes was to mirror the standards of the Guild,” Lunzer said. “I know it had a big effect on the Tribune, especially when it came to showing just cause to terminate an employee.”

Minkkinen grew up in a small town in Minnesota that was home to Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish immigrants.

“He carried a lot of those socialist principles from the countries they originated from,” Lunzer said.

“He loved his job and helping people. He loved golf, football, fishing and his grandkids — all 12 of them,” his daughter, Sandra Minkkinen, said.

In addition to Sandra, Minkkinen is survived by five other children: Roberta Follett, David Minkkinen, Dale Minkkinen, Sheryl Minkkinen and Kim Valentine VanStone. His wife, DeAnne Valentine, died before him.

His first marriage, with Jane Minkkinen, ended in divorce. She has also passed away.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Read more at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Support your local regional Chicago newspaper

Thank you for reading and supporting your local newspaper:

We journalists of the Pioneer Press, Lake County News-Sun and Northwest Indiana’s Post-Tribune newspapers need your help.

Our new owners at the Chicago Tribune (now calling themselves tronc) don’t see the value of strong community journalism, and they are offering the dedicated members of the Chicago News Guild zero percent raises while nearly doubling some of our contributions toward health insurance. They threaten our job security with layoffs and toxic working conditions, all of which make it increasingly difficult to give your community the news coverage it deserves.

All the while, they are buying out-of-town newspapers like the New York Daily News and fattening their executives’ wallets with salaries like the CEO’s $8 million.

Here’s how you can help!

Please sign our petition and tell Tribune management that you support community journalism and the journalists in your community.

Thank you,

The dedicated members of the Chicago News Guild

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Unionized staff at the Chicago Reader ratifies contract with new owners

Press Release

Editorial employees of the Chicago Reader today unanimously ratified a one-year contract, resolving a lengthy labor dispute that led to a strike threat at the alternative publication. The members of the Chicago News Guild reached the deal with a labor-friendly investor group that acquired the Reader in July.

Staff will receive a pay increase totaling 8.4 percent on average. Individual increases will vary and will begin to correct long-standing pay inequities at the Reader, where salaries bore little relation to a person’s job responsibilities or years of experience. The first-time contract also sets forth minimum annual salaries, ranging from $38,480 for new hires and topping out at $46,816 for those with 20 or more years of Reader service.

“We at the Reader union know how little money there is to go around in publishing, because we’ve been keeping the paper great with progressively diminishing resources for a decade,” said Philip Montoro, the Reader’s music editor and head of the Guild bargaining committee. “Under the circumstances, we’re grateful to the new ownership for investing in us at all, and we look forward to working together to create the growth that will make it possible for them to keep doing so.”

The employees ratified the contract by a vote of 17-0 during a meeting at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza.

“The investors have shown they value fairness in the workplace, certainly in comparison with the former owners,” said Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Guild. “We want to help them achieve a turnaround at the Reader that rewards our members for its progress.”

In July, the Reader and the Chicago Sun-Times were sold to a partnership led by former Chicago alderman Edwin Eisendrath and unions aligned with the Chicago Federation of Labor. Bargaining with the partnership occurred at a brisk pace, a change from the more than two years of talks with former owner Wrapports LLC.

Wrapports never made a raise offer and presided over a series of cutbacks in Reader operations, shrinking the size of its printed edition by more than 40 percent since 2012. In frustration, Guild members organized a “Save the Reader” campaign that drew substantial public support. In May, the employees–many of whom had gone without a raise for more than a decade–voted to authorize a strike.

But just days later, Wrapports announced its intention to sell the Reader and the Sun-Times to Tronc Inc., the parent company of the Chicago Tribune, if it received no other offers. Tronc’s chairman is Michael Ferro Jr., who formerly ran Wrapports. Guild staff felt a sale back to Ferro would have meant the publications’ demise.

With the U.S. Justice Department monitoring the sale process for antitrust violations, Wrapports agreed to sell to the Eisendrath group.

Other key provisions in the new Reader contract include a requirement that overtime beyond 40 hours be paid at a time-and-a-half rates, not in compensatory time off, plus a ban on using freelancers to replace full-time staffers. Staff also will be entitled to better terms for retirement and health care if such provisions are secured by Guild members in the Sun-Times editorial department. Their negotiations to replace a contract expiring at year end will begin soon.

The Reader has been distributed for free since 1971 and has helped define the mission of the nation’s alternative press with its investigative and long-form journalism and its concentration on the city’s arts, culture, and politics. Its honors include many Association of Alternative Newsmedia Awards, Peter Lisagor Awards and three James Beard Awards for food writing.

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