Letter to PMN Board of Directors from NewsGuild Executive Board
February 5, 2019
Dear PMN Board Members,
We are writing on behalf of the members of the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia. We represent reporters, some editors, advertising, finance and circulation employees, and editorial assistants at the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.
Our members are not just the “content providers” of this organization; we are its heart and we are its future. We are hurting, and we are angry.
After a decade of no across-the-board raises, we negotiated a “wage reopener” at our last contract, which guaranteed the NewsGuild an attempt at securing a hard-earned raise before the end of our current contract.
That “wage reopener” was this past fall, when we met in good faith, only to have the process delayed at the request of Terry Egger until last month. Again, we met in good faith. Our proposal was a 5 percent increase. Most of our members have not received a contract raise in 11 years.
In that time, the cost of living has gone up year by year – 2.6 percent just since 2016. With no raises to offset those rising costs, our members are struggling to pay bills, including such essentials as childcare. Some are working multiple jobs in an effort to make ends meet.
Despite what seemed like a sincere assurance by Egger at that wage reopener meeting in November that he would look to secure money for a modest raise, saying he needed time to find money for ALL employees, he sat across from us at our Jan. 4 meeting and said he was offering nothing.
What happened between the two meetings? PMN bet on its past, handing the Teamsters a lavish signing bonus, pension plan and a $700K donation to a vague expense fund. So much for enriching ALL employees.
In late December, Egger panicked employees by sending out a pre-Christmas memo to the entire staff about a possible strike by Teamsters and the damage that would cause. But when the company settled with that union on Dec. 29, not a word went out that such a crisis had been avoided. Why? Was it because Egger knew the NewsGuild would conclude the company had once again sold out its newsroom to settle with its drivers, who are still not asked to make contributions to their health care as NewsGuild members are?
Egger’s dishonesty about wanting more time to find money for all employees, combined with the company’s secret pension since 2015 for the Teamsters, was the NewsGuild’s reward for
working with this company over the past several years, enduring pay cuts and furloughs, and even helping Egger sell the new advertising and newsroom restructurings to our members.
In light of this pattern of insincere dealing and flat-out lying to the NewsGuild, and his continued indifference to the economic pain of our membership, Egger has, quite simply, lost the confidence of our members.
As we stressed to him, with our much-touted “visionary” ownership structure, there are so many ways to find the money to keep the members of our union above water. Are there top managers whose jobs and salaries might be absorbed by the Lenfest Institute? Are there priorities to be shifted so that the staff that has made a commitment to work feels even a hint of that commitment on the other end?
Are managers whose policies and practices continue to fail on the business side ever held accountable?
PMN and the Lenfest Institute are visionary organizations that pride themselves on finding a new direction distinct from the destructive playbooks of hedge funds and publicly traded companies trying to maximize profits.
But beyond the kudos and innovation, the tweet threads and back pats, we see our publisher treating us exactly off that old playbook.
We have fallen way behind. We’ve lost good talent in recent months and know other prized employees are considering leaving because they don’t want to or simply can’t afford to work for a company that doesn’t adequately reward its employees.
We call on you, members of PMN’s board of directors, to advocate for that to change, to advocate for the employees who make, as Egger’s recent full-page letter to the community seemed to suggest, the Inquirer a brand worth supporting.
Our members are outraged, insulted and determined to fight for our basic rights to a decent wage. We have seen our pension gutted and the company lie about being out of the pension business when, as the Teamster deal proves, it is not.
We are demanding a simple across-the-board pay increase for our members, who have seen nothing but givebacks and furloughs for more than a decade.
We need your support
Diane Mastrull, President
Bill Ross, Executive Director