Newspapers and Unions and Publishing and Labor and Media & Marketing

Star union gains raises, can't stop job cuts

March 19, 2012

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, the union that represents many of the newsroom and custodial workers at the Indianapolis Star,  has won pay raises for most of its workers but was unable to stop the company's outsourcing plans, which could ship up to eight jobs out of state.

On March 14, Guild members voted 74-5 to ratify a two-year contract with Virginia-based Gannett Co. Inc., which owns the Star.

Star management agreed to give immediate one-time raises of 2 percent to 2.5 percent to most Guild members. Those making less than $18 an hour got 4-percent raises.

In the contract's second year, individual raises will be at the discretion of management.

The deal came after a months-long "Save The Star" campaign. The Guild, with financial help from the Communications Workers of America, purchased five billboards, ran three months of messaging on public radio, handed out more than 5,000 leaflets at downtown locations and staged a protest and rally in front of the newspaper's downtown headquarters that was a first in the Guild’s history.

The campaign emphasized the paper’s role in the local community and implored Star management not to outsource or ship local jobs out of state. The Guild even enlisted local religious leaders to campaign for employee causes.

“I think the Save The Star campaign was effective,” said Indianapolis Newspaper Guild President Robert King, a reporter at The Star. “We got a better deal than we would have otherwise. We made most of our gains on the last day of negotiations.”

While King was pleased that Guild leaders were able to secure pay raises for members during a difficult financial time for newspapers, he couldn’t hide his disappointment over a decision to send as many as eight design jobs to a Gannett production hub in Louisville later this year. The shift will be a big loss for the paper’s 10-person design staff, King added.

“I’m not dancing about this deal,” King said. “We’re not happy about the loss of those jobs. But that’s just one point they were unwilling to yield on, and I think this deal is better than a lot of people thought it could be heading into negotiations. It came down to do we want a contract or an impasse. We chose to get the best deal we could.”

The union also won assurances that Star editorial employees would not have to work on advertising materials, King said.

King isn’t optimistic Star staffers will ever recover the 10-percent pay cuts they’ve taken over the last two years.

“We have to be realistic and know that this is the new normal,” King said. “We’re going to continue to fight tooth and nail, and claw for what we can, but I’m not sure we’re ever going to get that back in a lump sum.”

Newspaper management directed questions about the new contract to Publisher Karen Crotchfelt, who is out of the office this week and unavailable for comment.

Gannett said cost-cutting has been necessary because company revenue from print advertising plunged from $5.2 billion in 2005 to $2.5 billion in 2011.

Gannett earned $458.7 million in 2011, down 22 percent from $588.2 million in 2010. Revenue slid 4 percent, to $5.24 billion.

 

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