Daily Hampshire Gazette workers launch ‘work-to-rule’ campaign

Workers at the Daily Hampshire Gazette have launched a “work-to-rule” campaign, taking a stand against understaffing and outsourcing at the Northampton, Mass., publication.

“Work-to-rule” means staffers will stop doing all the “extras” they routinely perform – but don’t get paid for – to ensure that the Gazette gets published. For example, they won’t make or take phone calls after work hours to follow-up on stories.

“We’ve been in negotiations for about two years now,” said Bera Dunau, chair of the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild, the union that includes journalists and all other staffers. They are part of the Providence Local 31041 and are bargaining for a first contract with Newspapers of New England, Inc. (NNE), which owns the paper and eight other dailies, weeklies and digital publications.

“We are already working on the thinnest of staffing,” workers said in an announcement of the work-to-rule campaign. “Now, at the bargaining table, NNE and their white-shoe lawyer are seeking the power to outsource more jobs” in the copy-editing and arts departments.

In 2020, the company outsourced pagination. Management eliminated the Gazette printing press in 2020 as well, resulting in the loss of an additional 29 jobs.

After workers announced the work-to-rule campaign, readers weighed in on Twitter, with messages of support. “Been a subscriber for over a decade and absolutely support the @pvnewsguild for fighting to keep our local paper local,” said Chris Lucas. “The community NEEDS the local paper to be vibrant, resourced, and locally created,” wrote Sarah Brown-Anson.

At the last bargaining session, the company proposed a single raise of 1.75% during the life of a three-year contract. That’s far less than the 2 percent annual raises Gazette workers have gotten from NNE in the past, Dunau said.

“We have worked tirelessly in the face of a shrinking newspaper to bring our readers the coverage they deserve. We’ve done our best, but these reductions in our Gazette family cannot continue in this way.”

In September, the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild members organized a picket against outsourcing where readers, former employees, local elected officials and labor leaders videotaped messages of support. “The response from our community was clear,” Dunau said. “The Pioneer Valley wants to keep newspapers jobs local.”

Follow the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild on Twitter @pvnewsguild.