After nearly a decade with no pay raises and constant increases in their share of health insurance premiums, employees at Peoria’s only daily newspaper may see a small increase in pay and a commitment to freeze their share of health insurance costs.
The agreement comes after intensive bargaining with Gatehouse Media, New York-based owner of the Peoria Journal Star, State Journal-Register, Pekin Daily Times, Rockford Register Star and Freeport Journal Standard.
Under tentative terms of an agreement subject to further bargaining, journalists will receive a 1 percent wage increase effective Sept. 1, 2018 and 1.75 percent effective Oct. 1, 2019.
United Media Guild bargaining unit initially walked away from the table when the company offered zero pay increases the first year and cited declining ad revenue.
But declining ad revenues did not deflate huge annual bonuses given to top executives at corporate headquarters in New York City. Gatehouse/New Media Investment Group is owned by Fortress Investment Group LLC.
“The Gatehouse business model is to vacuum money out of newspapers and communities and send that money to Midtown Manhattan for bonuses for the boys and girls in New Media Investment Group,” said Shannon Duffy, business representative with United Media Guild. “Gatehouse turns a profit at every newspaper while continuing to hollow out the properties.”
Duffy called this a particularly important time for journalism and said communities should understand what bargaining is like with the corporation that owns daily newspapers across the country. Gatehouse owns 130 daily newspapers, hundreds of weeklies and has a readership of 21 million.
“We hope to stem the exodus from journalism. Right now journalism is critically important to our democracy,” Duffy said. “It is not coincidental that journalism is the only job listed in the U.S. Constitution. The founders were clear about understanding the role of the press in democracy.”