The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia


January 7, 2019billrossInquirer

As we’ve told you in meetings, the NewsGuild’s current contract with the Company, which expires March 30, 2020, contains a clause allowing the union to request a wage reopener midway through the life of the collective bargaining agreement.

The NewsGuild made such a request and in October met with the Company, including Publisher Terry Egger, to discuss the prospects of an across-the-board pay raise for all NewsGuild members, something that has not happened in 11 years. Egger
said at the time it was his desire to give all employees of the company a raise and that he needed more time to find money for the 2019 budget.

NewsGuild leaders agreed to suspend talks until that budget process could be completed and requested a meeting with the Company for Jan. 4.

At that meeting Friday, the NewsGuild asked that the current contract be modified to provide a weekly wage increase of 5 percent for all members, retroactive to Sept. 1, 2018, the halfway point of our contract.

The Company did, indeed, find money – just not for the NewsGuild. Your leaders confirmed at the bargaining session that the Company had, one week earlier, reached an 18-month contract deal with the Teamsters that provides, among other things:

  • A $1,000 signing bonus
  • Continued contributions to a pension fund started in 2015 – five years after the Company ended contributions to the NewsGuild pension fund and declared it was “out of the pension business.”
  • Continued 401k matching contributions
  • Continued exemption from paying ANYTHING toward their health care.
  • And … a $705,000 contribution – with an assurance of up to an additional $37,500 – called a Union Member Benefit Signing Bonus “to be used to fund pension shortfalls, benefits, severance and/or other payments due and owing under this contract at the Union’s

That the Company had not disclosed to NewsGuild leadership and all employees it had reached this agreement was especially troubling given that Egger had created considerable angst with a companywide email sent late last year suggesting
an impasse with Teamsters could be headed for a damaging strike.

When asked by the NewsGuild if the Company has a counter-proposal to our request for a 5 percent raise, Egger replied simply: “No.”

The Teamster deal represents millions of dollars in compensation that has NOT been extended to NewsGuild members – the content providers, website producers, advertising sales personnel, circulation stalwarts and finance experts. In other
words, the journalists, business creators and innovators on whom the Company has bet its future.

This Company has loudly and proudly declared itself on a digital mission, and has welcomed much media attention about its innovative new structure as a for-profit company owned by a nonprofit to get there and forge new paths of sustainability
for PMN and the industry as a whole.

Yet, the union arguably most integral in pulling off that transition once again has been stiffed.

Much has been written about the generosity of Gerry Lenfest in giving the company a chance at survival. That is just part of the story. That there was a Company for Lenfest to help has much to do with tremendous sacrifice by employees who
were here long before he and many of the current executives were – sacrifices in the form of pay cuts, unpaid furloughs, the loss of a guaranteed pension, continuing health care costs, with some making the same now that they made 11 years ago.

That is an ugly, embarrassing part of the PMN story that needs to change, beginning now, with this wage reopener.

We will be in touch about next steps.

Maggie O’Brien

Melanie Burney

John Robinson

Amy Rosenberg

Donna Stokes

Jonathan Tannewald

Tricia Nadolny

Jonathan Lai

Bob Grotz

Dave Levengood

Eric Chur

Oscar Gamble

Calvin Okunoye

Diane Mastrull – President

Bill Ross – Executive Director