Guild, Gannett agree on two-year contract

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After two and a half years of bargaining and a 19-day strike, the Newspaper Guild of Rochester reached an agreement with Gannett Co. on a new two-year contract for editorial employees at the Democrat and Chronicle and the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua.

The agreement is a win for the union, which achieved most of its goals. The contract terms call for wages to increase by an average of 15 percent, with some of the lowest-paid (and longest-working) workers receiving pay hikes between $10,000 and $20,000 a year. A new minimum salary scale and ratification bonuses for each union worker also are part of the agreement.  

“We’re very pleased with the contract we achieved.” says Justin Murphy, a D&C reporter and Guild vice chair. “In particular we’re very happy to have secured major raises for some of our colleagues who have been severely unpaid for years despite dedicating their entire adult lives to this company, this community and this profession. The fact that we were able to achieve so many of our original goals is a testament to years of hard work and organizing – and also to the support shown from the community in the last few months. That includes more than $40,000 raised while we were on strike.”

The Guild employees also won mandated notices before layoffs as well as guaranteed severance and a one-year recall period. Additionally, performance-based issues, which previously could lead to management terminating employees without the right to arbitration, will now be covered by the just cause standard. 

The local union, which represents 24 members including journalists, photojournalists and producers, is a unit of the NewsGuild of New York. Their parent union, the NewsGuild-CWA, represents more than 50 Gannett bargaining units nationwide, with a total of more than 1,000 employees. 

The Rochester Guild employees had been working without a contract since 2019. During that period, Gannett posted nearly $1 billion in losses as both circulation and advertising revenues continued a sharp decline. Unionized newsroom employment at the D&C has fallen nearly three-quarters since 2011, the Guild has said.

In April, the local union staged a three-week walkout, which brought widespread support from the community. A number of Democratic elected officials supported the strike, among them Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Joseph Morelle, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. Local coffee shops and restaurants provided food for the striking workers and local celebrities refused to cross the picket line or to be interviewed by the paper. 

“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,” says Tracy Schuhmacher, the D&C’s food, drink and features reporter and unit chair of the Guild.

“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.”

When the strike ended April 24 without a new contract, the Guild journalists filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Gannett of bad-faith bargaining and retaliation for union activity. 

“This entire process, and in particular the strike, has strained our relationship with management to put it mildly,” Murphy says. “But we’re all professionals and all dedicated to the same goal of serving the community, so we’ll get through it.”

Asked for comment, Gannett officials pointed to a joint statement issued by the newspapers and the Guild, which says in part: “We are in agreement our priority is to serve the ever-changing needs of audiences in (the) Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes region with trusted local journalism for the benefit of our communities. We have a real opportunity moving forward in Rochester and Canandaigua for labor and management to partner in meeting the many challenges our industry faces with creativity and in a spirit of mutual respect.”

The Rochester union is the second Guild unit to reach an agreement with Gannett. Journalists at the Desert Sun in California came to an agreement with the media giant in March, following an open-ended strike.

Henry Cramer is a Rochester Beacon intern, a rising junior at the University of Rochester and a member of the Beacon Oasis Project’s inaugural cohort. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Guild, Gannett agree on two-year contract

  1. Thanks for posting this. If you relied solely on Gannett publications for news you wouldn’t even know there was a negotiation. That in itself is ironic given Gannett seems to delight in reporting on labor strife of other businesses like Starbucks and the Detroit Big 3. Unfortunately what ever the Guild gained here will be passed on to subscribers and advertisers, which means less of both, further propelling their cycle of decline downward.

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