Feb. 22, 2018 – Guild members at 17 separate bargaining units overwhelming ratified a first-of-its kind “global settlement” with GateHouse Media that improves wages and protects health benefits at the GateHouse-owned newspapers.
“By negotiating a single agreement for 16 newspapers, we have significantly enhanced workers’ power now and for the future,” said Bernie Lunzer, NewsGuild president. “Rather than negotiating separately in small groups, our members are facing a common adversary together. This agreement provides a great platform for future negotiations.”
The 1 percent and 1.75 percent pay increases are modest, Lunzer said, but they’re the first contractual raises most employees have gotten in 10 years. When bargaining began, GateHouse declared it would offer no wage increases.
Health Benefits, Costs Frozen
The union also won a guarantee that health insurance coverage would remain at current levels without increasing employees’ costs in 2018. GateHouse had been planning to increase employees’ share of premium costs or force them to move to a plan with fewer benefits. In either case, employees’ health care costs would have increased significantly.
“The health insurance freeze is a major accomplishment,” said negotiating committee member John Hill, who is vice president from NewsGuild Region 1 and president of the Providence local. “It’s a result of having all the Guild-represented GateHouse papers involved.”
Workers at the Providence Journal had bargained for three years with no success, he said. “This agreement helped us leverage the power we have as opposed to each local working on its own,” Hill said.
Rick Eggleston, the Guild’s unit chair at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, said retaining the current level of health benefits at the same cost will save him more than $2,000 per year because his premiums would have increased from $253.67 every two weeks to $338.87.
“On top of that, we got a raise,” he said. “The raise isn’t great, but it’s something. We haven’t gotten a raise in over a decade at the Telegram Gazette.”
Stage 2 Bargaining
The agreement, which members voted on in December and January, also provided for a second round of bargaining to address other issues of concern. For “Stage 2 Bargaining,” locals have been divided into three categories for joint negotiations with GateHouse: long-term GateHouse bargaining units, recently acquired bargaining units, and newly organized bargaining units. Stage 2 bargaining was set to begin in February.
The global settlement, which covers approximately 730 employees who are represented by seven Guild locals, includes:
- 1 percent wage increase effective Sept. 1, 2018
- 1.75 percent wage increase effective Oct. 1, 2019
- Health insurance benefits and employees’ premiums for 2018 will remain at current levels.
- Health insurance premiums will remain unchanged in 2019, but benefit levels, co-pays, deductibles and other costs will be equivalent to those offered to managers and other non-union employees at the same newspaper.
- The union and management will explore the possibility of joining the United Furniture Workers Health Insurance Fund, a union health plan that covers 450 members at 11 non-GateHouse Guild units.
- “Stage 2 bargaining” will address local issues.
- The Guild agreed to defer any coordinated national campaign against GateHouse until June 30, 2018, or beyond.
Off-the-record negotiations between the Guild and GateHouse began in late September and continued periodically through Dec. 12, when the agreement was signed.