Daily Hampshire Gazette workers end year by ratifying first contract

Unionized workers at the Daily Hampshire Gazette ended 2021 by ratifying their first contract, securing important victories after more than two years of negotiating with the Gazette’s owners, Newspapers of New England (NNE). 

The contract includes protections against outsourcing for employees in all departments, pay raises in each year of the two-year deal, paid breaks, the designation of Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday and a generous severance package if layoffs occur.

The vote was unanimous among members of the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild who took part in balloting over the long Christmas weekend.

Bera Dunau, the unit’s council chair and a staff writer at the newspaper, said the agreement was the result of more than four years of organizing and over two years at the bargaining table. 

“I am so proud of what we have accomplished as a union and am excited to see what the future brings for us and the newspaper we love,” he said. 

The deal was reached amid a series of escalating actions by the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild, including working to rule and picketing in front of the newspaper’s offices. 

On Dec. 6, a dozen prominent unpaid monthly columnists for the Gazette announced a writers’ strike, putting down their pens in solidarity with the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild members. The columnists said they would begin writing again once NNE reached a contract with its workers.

“We could not have achieved this historic victory without the unwavering support of community members across the Connecticut River Valley, including the amazing group of columnists who went on strike,” staff writer Dusty Christensen said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the community to strengthen the Fourth Estate here in western Massachusetts.”

The contract includes protections against union members losing their jobs to outsourcing, a 3% raise in 2022 and a 2% raise in 2023, a more generous compensation plan for advertising representatives, additional vacation time for some long-term employees, “just cause” protections and severance guarantees that include three months of fully paid health care.

Workers at the Daily Hampshire Gazette announced their intent to unionize in November 2018, and won an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) the following month. 

Since then, the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild has worked to improve working conditions for its members. Union members hope that this collective bargaining agreement — the first in the newspaper’s 235-year history — “is the start of a new era for the Gazette and its workers.”