Illinois labor leaders support our contract quest

Officials from 10 major unions and labor organizations — including the Illinois Education Association, AFSCME Council 31, the Illinois AFL-CIO and police and firefighter unions — recently wrote a letter to the editors of The State Journal-Register and Illinois Times calling on GateHouse to work out a fair contract covering Guild members in the SJ-R newsroom in Springfield.

We give thanks to these labor leaders for supporting good journalism as an essential component of a stable democracy. This show of support is bound to ripple throughout the community, and it should be a strong indication to GateHouse Media officials in New York that the general public values quality journalism in the capital city. Readers of the paper far and wide don’t want to see GateHouse siphon the lifeblood from the The State Journal-Register in the name of profit. Readers already have seen printing of the paper outsourced to Peoria and page design outsourced to Texas while a steady stream of talented staffers either left the paper or were shown the door.

Readers want to see profits generated by the SJ-R’s remaining hardworking employees spent on more than lavish bonuses for top GateHouse officials and the acquisition of more newspapers. A good first contract with newsroom employees would bring stability for workers and readers alike.

Here is that letter:

Since Abraham Lincoln’s time, Springfield residents have relied on local newspapers to provide information and insight about local and state matters.

Because Springfield is home to state office holders and their staffs, these newspapers had substantial influence on the debate of issues affecting all Illinoisans.

The State Journal-Register (SJR) is the last daily paper standing in Mr. Lincoln’s hometown and it is crucial the SJR remain viable, employing first-rate journalists and presenting high quality news and analysis.

To achieve that goal, there must be a fair settlement of the contract between Gatehouse Media, owner of the State Journal-Register, and newsroom employees represented by the United Media Guild.

For more than three years, the employees have been trying to negotiate a contract to allow the SJR to continue to publish a high quality newspaper and, over time, boost circulation to the point that reporter positions eliminated since Gatehouse bought the paper can be restored.

Many of these employees have logged decades of service to the SJR and its readers, remaining loyal despite Gatehouse’s elimination of the copy desk and other important newsroom positions.

We urge everyone who believes a great city deserves a great daily newspaper to call the publisher and insist that the SJR negotiate a fair contract with the newsroom employees.

You can reach Publisher Clarissa Williams at (217) 788-1326.

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