On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Guild and the Company met for the second full negotiating session since Jim Kirk announced plans to consolidate company operations in downtown Chicago. At the session, Guild negotiators delivered a revised contract proposal, written in light of that announcement, with a new consolidated wage-scale provision.
Our proposal states that, retroactive to 10-29-12, Pioneer Press, Gary Post-Tribune, Joliet Herald News, and Lake County News Sun reporters, photographers and copy editors will be paid the same scale as Sun-Times artists, photographers and reporters. Editorial assistants from the former suburban properties will be paid at the same scale as Sun-Times editorial assistants.
The proposal maintains our initial provision of 8% wage increases every year for three years. Each year’s increase includes a phased return to the pay levels we gave up in 2009 to save the company, plus annual net increases of 3%.
The company’s team expressed incredulity at our revision. A consolidated pay scale would give suburban employees huge increases of “almost 100 percent”, they complained.
We make no apologies for that – although the increases are actually lower than that.
It’s simple justice: equal pay for equal work.
For years, we’ve known that the Company’s suburban reporters, photographers, editors and editorial assistants merit the same respect and benefits as their colleagues downtown. They investigate and write stories, find images, and create products that are as valuable to Company readers and advertisers as those in the online and hard copy pages of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Yet the Company pays its suburban employees so little that some reporters and editorial assistants must take part-time jobs to make ends meet. Many others live paycheck to paycheck as they support their families on miserably low wages.
Top reporters at the Gary Post-Tribune made less than $775 a week in 2008. They have not received a pay increase since then. In fact, they took the same pay cuts we all did in 2009. Gary editorial assistants topped out at less than $490 a week – again, before the 15-19 percent pay cuts we took to save the company. Senior reporters at Pioneer Press, the second largest group of Guild-covered employees in the Company, made just over $800 a week as of Jan. 1, 2009, before the MOU imposed a 15 percent pay cut. Pioneer’s editorial assistants made less than $14 an hour before the cut.
Now suburban employees are being told they must not only continue to live on that reduced wage rate, many of them – the lowest-paid editorial assistants, for instance – may have to add the increased costs of traveling to and working in downtown Chicago to their daily burden. (The company still has not given us a clear answer on the issue.)
Guild employees at the Sun-Times – a Pulitzer-prize winning news operation of which our owners boast – already face financial challenges at their current MOU-decreased pay scale. Must their suburban brothers and sisters be expected to face the same challenges on even less?
This inequity was barely excusable when Pioneer, Joliet, Lake-County and Gary were provably separate operations. Now, as the Company consolidates its physical plant, the reality is that Wrapports/Sun-Times Media will never be able to maintain the firewalls it so desperately clings to in order to maintain the illusion of separate operations and unequal recompense.
When Tim Knight, and Jim Kirk tell us we are a digital-first daily operation, our response is “Yes. Now pay us all based on the scale you pay for your largest daily operation.” No amount of manufactured outrage on the part of Company negotiators can change that.
Or to use the Company’s own language: Wrapports/Sun-Times Media has integrated its news product across multiple platforms; as of Dec. 20 it has decided to integrate its physical plant. We are calling on the company to integrate pay scales as well.
The Guild and the Company are scheduled to meet next on March 6. The Company stated it had a draft confidentiality agreement ready for our review. If both sides agree on its wording, we expect to see the Company’s books as soon as practicable thereafter.
We will keep you posted of any developments on this matter, and on what happens next in negotiations.
We also call on you to be ready to take part in upcoming Guild actions. The Company may want to ignore us, but a united membership ready to volunteer, pick up phones, talk to the public about our cause, etc. will make that very difficult.
Check in regularly at the Guild web site: www.chicagoguild.org. Also check out the Chicago Newspaper Guild’s page on Facebook – like it, take part in discussions there; it’s another way to keep informed.
David Polard, Judy Masterson, Dave Roeder, Bob Mazzoni, Dave Roknic, Bob Okon, Teresa Schultz, Kathy Routliffe