Dec. 17, 2018 – Journalists of the Casper Star-Tribune voted 10 to 0 to approve a Collective Bargaining Agreement on Dec. 14, ratifying the first contract between workers and their employer in the paper’s 127-year history.
The agreement, reached on Dec. 7, brings “relief and security,” said NewsGuild Unit Chair Seth Klamann.
The two-year agreement, “secures more severance, better layoff provisions, improved overtime requirements and guaranteed raises for the entire unit this year and next year,” the Casper NewsGuild wrote in a statement posted onTwitter.
Workers will receive a 2 percent across-the-board raise retroactive to Dec. 1, and a 1 percent raise in October 2019, as well as a $100 signing bonus.
Although the pay increases are modest, a journalist whose pay was just $26,000 per year will receive a $4,000 bump because the new agreement establishes a minimum annual salary of $30,000. Other newsroom employees were earning between $30,000 and $49,000 when the agreement was signed.
Establishing severance pay was also a priority, Klamann said, because layoffs are an ongoing threat. The new contract gives workers one week of pay for each year of service, with a minimum of 4 weeks’ pay and a maximum of 16. Workers facing layoff will also receive pay for any leave they have accumulated. In addition, before layoffs are implemented, workers who are not affected may volunteer to resign with severance.
Perhaps the most important feature of the contract is that workers now have a structure to address disputes with management, Klamann said.
One of the first provisions agreed to was the creation of aLabor-Management Committee, which was instituted before the contract was finalized. “We’ve been able to meet with management two or three times on little things and get them resolved,” Klamann said. The committee will also address bigger issues, he added.
The agreement also established a grievance procedure and stipulates that employees may only be fired or disciplined for “just cause,”said Tony Mulligan, the administrative officer of the Denver Newspaper Guild who helped organize the Casper Star-Tribune unit and assisted in contract negotiations.
“The negotiations were often contentious,” the union’s statement said. “But we appreciate Lee Enterprises bargaining in good faith, and we look forward to working with local management to further strengthen the Star-Tribune in the years to come.”
The contractual improvements grew out the union organizing campaign, Klamann said. “It gave us a voice inside and outside the newsroom.” Union activists have been so public about their concerns that management has felt compelled to deal with them, he said.
“Since we’ve unionized we’ve been able to tell the public, ‘hey, our press is shutting down. We’re not printing in Casper anymore.’
“Readers have begun to ask management what’s going on at the Star-Tribune and have said ‘I support their request for fair wages.’
“That never happened before,” Klamann said. “In the past, layoffs happened silently.”