Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and Canandaigua Daily Messenger Journalists Win New Contract After Historic 19-Day Strike

New contract addresses decades of wage stagnation and improves job security

Media Contact: Asya Pikovsky,, 207-522-2442

ROCHESTER – Unionized journalists at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and Canandaigua Daily Messenger unanimously ratified a tentative agreement on a two-year collective bargaining contract today, after two and a half years of bargaining and a 19-day strike that forced Gannett to scramble to find coverage for a series of major news events, including the total solar eclipse in the Rochester area. The strike ended on April 24th, but the parties continued discussions over the past several weeks after journalists filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over allegations of bad-faith bargaining and retaliation for union activity. 

The group of 24 reporters, photojournalists, and producers – represented by the Newspaper Guild of Rochester, a unit of The NewsGuild of New York – fearlessly took on their paper’s corporate owner, Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain. Their parent union, The NewsGuild-CWA, represents more than 50 Gannett bargaining units across the country, collectively covering more than 1,000 employees. 

The historic strike, backed by the support of community allies, elected officials and readers, yielded a new agreement that won a majority of their demands, including: 

  • Compensation:
    • An average raise of 15% over the life of the two-year contract, which guarantees raises for every member of the bargaining unit after decades of wage stagnation
    • Real raises for the unit’s most grossly underpaid employees. Several of the lowest-paid and longest-serving members of the unit will receive raises between $10,000 – $20,000
    • A new minimum salary scale that recognizes years of service and corrects for long-standing pay inequities
    • Annual raises that amount to an additional salary increase of $2,730 for each member over the term of the contract
    • A $1,000 bonus for each member upon contract ratification
  • Job protections:
    • New layoff protections, which include notice, a seniority basis for layoffs, guaranteed severance and a one-year recall period. The prior contract had no notice, no seniority, no recall and no guaranteed severance. Members also won a provision that states “There shall be no dismissals as a result of putting this agreement into effect.”
    • New protections around discipline and discharge, eliminating the old contract’s “editorial exception” to the just cause standard which would have allowed for management to terminate anyone for performance issues without the right to arbitration. Members fought for and won “just cause, no exceptions.”

A full contract summary can be found here

“We were sick and tired of stagnant wages and virtually no protections in the workplace. We fought together and stood strong. We wanted to see everyone be paid what they were worth and we were willing to fight for it,” said Tina MacIntyre-Yee, Democrat & Chronicle Photojournalist and Secretary of the Newspaper Guild of Rochester.

The journalists’ strike received overwhelming solidarity from elected officials, community members, unions, and more, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Rochester’s local Assembly and Senate representatives, the Rochester City Council, Congressman Joe Morelle, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, and Rochester Mayor Malik Evans.

Multiple officials and community members, including popular Rochester singer Danielle Ponder, declined interviews from scabs that Gannett brought in to cover D&C work. A D&C Storytellers Project event was canceled when participants who were slated to tell stories refused to cross the picket line to participate.

“The support from the Rochester community has fueled us during the strike and over the past few weeks as we continued negotiating. People joined us on the picket line, participated in our rallies and donated to our GoFundMe campaign,” said Tracy Schuhmacher, the Democrat & Chronicle’s Food, Drink, and Features Reporter and Unit Chair of the Newspaper Guild of Rochester. “We were well-fed and hydrated on the picket line thanks to the generosity of business owners, former colleagues, fellow union members and others in the community. After we returned to work, many people have expressed their support and concern. We cannot thank everyone enough.”

The April strike followed months of escalating actions by journalists. In March, The NewsGuild of New York filed a bad-faith bargaining ULP charge, following several recent charges over numerous Gannett violations. In January, Democrat and Chronicle journalists held a town hall to highlight their demands, which helped to focus community’s attention on the contract negotiations and prompted readers to send Gannett letters of support for the union members at the D&C. 

The Rochester Guild is the second Guild unit at Gannett to win a contract this year after going on strike. At the beginning of March, journalists at the Gannett-owned Desert Sun launched an open-ended strike to protest the company’s bad-faith bargaining, and reached an agreement on their first contract. 

“The Rochester Guild went on strike to protect local news in their community and to hold powerful institutions to account, including their parent company Gannett. They are fighting and winning alongside thousands of other journalists who have struck at 85 other newsrooms in the last two years. Journalists are striking for honesty in the news, fair pay and to raise the standards of journalism and ethics of the industry. Rochester journalists are a model for journalists everywhere fighting to make their company care about the communities we report to,” said Jon Schleuss, President of The NewsGuild-CWA.