Updated Dec. 21, 2017 to reflect that 2018 benefits and premiums will remain at current levels, whether employees’ premiums are currently based on 2017 levels or 2016 levels.
Dec. 14, 2017 – In a first-of-its-kind agreement, The NewsGuild-CWA reached a “global settlement” with GateHouse Media on Dec. 12 that improves wages and protects health benefits at 16 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.
“Although the 1 percent and 1.75 percent pay increases are modest, they are the first contractual raises most of the employees will get in as many as 10 or 11 years,” Lunzer said. When bargaining began, GateHouse declared it would offer no wage increases.
Health Plan 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 (RI) Local. “It’s a result of having all the Guild-represented GateHouse papers involved.
“In Providence, we’ve been in bargaining for three years and gotten nowhere,” he said. “This agreement helped us leverage the power we have as opposed to each local working on its own.”
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 also provides for a second round of bargaining to address other issues of concern. For “Stage 2 Bargaining,” locals will be divided into three categories for joint negotiations with GateHouse: long-term GateHouse bargaining units, recently acquired bargaining units, and newly organized bargaining units.
“I am hopeful that, as we move on to Stage 2 bargaining to try to wrap up our contracts, there will be a positive outcome that will bode well for our future bargaining relationship,” said negotiating committee member Rollie Dreussi, who is executive secretary of the Northeast Ohio Local.
The global settlement, which covers approximately 730 employees, includes:
- 1% wage increase effective Sept. 1, 2018
- 1.75% 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.
- Establishes “Stage 2 bargaining” for locals that ratify the agreement to 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.
Seven locals represent employees at the 16 papers. Each local will establish its own ratification timeline, with voting expected to be completed before the end of the year. Units that do not ratify the economic agreement will return to bargaining with GateHouse at the point where the parties left off in fall of 2017 and will not receive the negotiated wage increases, health care protections or participate in Stage 2 bargaining.
Table 1: Long-Term GateHouse Bargaining Units
Quincy, Massachusetts (2 units)
Fall River, Massachusetts
Utica, New York
Canton, Ohio and Massillon, Ohio (2 newspapers/1 unit/1 contract)
Table 2: Recently-Acquired Bargaining Units
Providence, Rhode Island
Table 3: Newly Organized Bargaining Units
Rockford, Illinois and Freeport, Illinois (2 newspapers, 2 units/1 contract)