SJ-R journalists continue their contract fight

Our Springfield unit is pressing on for a first contract at the State Journal-Register. After years of negotiating, the GateHouse Media is still offering what amounts to a pay cut for those of our members using company health care.

Before our last bargaining session, SJ-R newsroom employees took to the street in front of their building to express their solidarity and commitment.

GateHouse commits Unfair Labor Practices, must post NLRB ruling

When our members in the State Journal-Register newsroom joined their public supporters for informational picketing outside of the newspaper building, a member of the GateHouse management team videotaped this protest.

Such surveillance can intimate union members and discourage them from exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. For that reason, such surveillance is prohibited under the act.

So the United Media Guild filed another Unfair Labor Practice charge against GateHouse Media, this time at the SJ-R. The NLRB found merit in our claim and GateHouse declined to appeal the ruling.

The company will display copies of the ruling in the workplace.


Earlier we filed two separate charges at the Rockford Register Star after the company clearly violated the National Labor Relations Act. We negotiated a favorable outcome to those charges.

GateHouse Media drains SJ-R profits, depletes newspaper

GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis

No one should ever work eight years without a raise – especially when the people at the top of that company are pocketing millions and paying fat dividend checks to investors. Everyone knows that it’s the workers who make companies thrive and prosper and not just the few big shots at the top.

The hardworking men and women at the State Journal-Register have now gone eight years without raises. Eight years. And during that time, the people running GateHouse Media – the SJ-R’s corporate owner – have awarded themselves millions in salaries and yearly bonuses. And that’s just wrong.

For 184 years the State Journal-Register has been looking out for the people of central Illinois. Now it’s our turn. Call on GateHouse to reward its employees and mandate that a fair contract – one that includes raises – is negotiated at the State Journal-Register and soon. And that, until that occurs, to STOP awarding all those executive bonuses!


Reporter’s plight draws Industry attention

Jim Romensko is one of the country’s most respected media bloggers. And he has paid close attention to the plight of our unit chair Dean Olsen, who was forced to take a second job to make ends meet.

Olsen is an award-winning medical reporter at the State Journal-Register. He has covered complex issues critical to citizens of central Illinois. His work is important to the community.

But with wages at the newspaper frozen for more than seven years — while the newspaper generated substantial cash flow to GateHouse Media — Olsen had to take a second job.

Recently Romenesko updated his readers by highlighting our public campaign in Springfield.

Why you should join our fight for quality journalism

Newspapers play an essential role in American society and the State Journal-Register plays an important role in the Springfield and nearby central Illinois communities.

New York-based GateHouse Media bought the SJ-R and slashed its news gathering operation to a fraction of its former size. Although the newspaper has remained highly profitable,  GateHouse has continued to freeze wages and reduce benefits.

springfield1This draconian cost-cutting has ensured that long-time reporters, editors and photographer who know our community will move on to jobs elsewhere.

In time, the institutional knowledge of the SJ-R will go away and a steady stream of new hires will pass through a revolving door. Such a scenario, while bad for the paper, would prove devastating for our communities.

Imagine covering state politics with new hires and interns.

Springfield and Central Illinois deserve much better from the out-of-town owners of this important regional institution.

Please join our fight to save the quality of the State Journal-Register.


GateHouse Media: Vulture capitalists

The vulture capitalists at New Media Investment Group/GateHouse Media are at again.

The same folks who built the GateHouse Media empire — before running it into bankruptcy and blowing through $1 billion in debt — are building an even bigger media empire. It bought the Halifax Media Group for $280 million and recently added some Stephens Media properties.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette is a huge addition for the company. It will help New Media/GateHouse to control much of Massachusetts outside of Boston. The Providence Journal, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sarasota Herald Tribune and Daytona Beach News-Journal has pushed New Media into bigger markets.

Although Halifax has been a relentless cost-cutter, this acquisition could cost even more journalists their jobs due to the inevitable consolidation of Halifax and Stephens newspapers with New Media/GateHouse operations. New Media/GateHouse will continue outsourcing local jobs to its central design house in Austin, Texas.

While the Halifax deal was going down, long-time Gatehouse executive Brad Dennison abruptly resigned his post as Senior Vice President of Publishing.

Dennison supported quality journalism on his watch and made some outstanding managerial hires. Earlier this year he brokered a peaceful contract extension with our members at the Peoria Journal Star — a deal which allowed the newspaper to keep its copy desk through the length of the extension.

The United Media Guild was sorry to see him leave the company. There was no doubting Dennison’s passion for the media business. With Dennison gone, we’re guessing the company will become even more committed to funneling money out of its markets at the expense of good journalism and community service.

Here is the New Media game in a nutshell:

  • The money guys behind the GateHouse chain had or acquired much of the $1 billion in debt the company ran up. Then they foreclosed on themselves, rewarding themselves with stock in the new company.
  • Freed from that debt, the company, reborn as New Media, went on a buying spree in the depressed newspaper market. It maximized cash flow from existing newspapers to fund acquisitions and pay dividends.
  • New Media targeted newspapers where it could slash staff and maximize cash flow out of those markets. Dividends went up. The stock prices soared. The money guys benefited greatly from both — and collected massive management fees on top of that.
  • Other vulture capitalists have taken note, grabbing up big chunks of stock in public stock offerings to gain access to this ATM machine. Wall Street expects the ride to continue to several years, anyway, the New Media management will keep slashing to maintain cash flow as long there is any revenue to be had.

Meanwhile communities will end up with gutted newspapers likely to suffer premature demises.

We’re advising the folks working at Halifax properties to be wary of the happytalk GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis offered up to employees:

Your reputation for journalistic excellence is inspiring to us; the Pulitzer Prize winning series in Tuscaloosa and Sarasota set a high bar. We also believe that the strength of your brands will support and add depth to our community publishing model. We look forward to partnering with you to leverage our respective strengths, so that together, we may continue our commitment to community news and service.

With this acquisition, we will operate newspapers and associated websites across 31 states in over 400 markets. We are committed to investing in our markets; recent research initiatives are informing changes to our local news products, both print and digital. We launched Propel Marketing, our fast growing digital marketing services agency, to provide a broader range of solutions for our small and mid-size business customers.

I’m certain you have many questions about benefits and the transition process; we will provide more information over the coming weeks. There is also much to share on programs and resources we can provide and collaborate on. Prior to completing the purchase, we expect to engage with your senior management team as we think about the transition and evaluate current priorities, trends and ideas.

We’re looking forward to working together!

Until you’re laid off or you quit in exasperation, that is.

Check out some recent comments former GateHouse employees left on the Glassdoor website:

“Pay is below industry standards, especially for location. Lots of turnover, low morale. Directives from national corporate are tone-deaf to regional consumers, workload of staff. Equipment and technology embarrassingly inadequate, outdated.”

“This is a turn and burn place. Everybody comes and leaves like crazy. They do not give raises and will treat you like nothing at all. The do not care at all about you. They have products that do not work and would rather sell to new customers than retain old ones. I have actually seen high ups from this company lie under oath to protect the profits of this company.”

“Many employees will do everything it takes to get their jobs done, even when they are visibly given too much to do (as the company continually cuts positions). They take their work home. They blur the lines for hours worked overtime, because management will harass them if they log any overtime hours.”