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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 12:01 am

GETTING ORGANIZED

Final signatures aren’t yet on paper, but a contract between State Journal-Register newsroom employees and GateHouse Media, corporate owner of the Springfield daily, has been ratified by workers and is all but a done deal. According to a union publication, workers get a 1 percent raise this year and a 1.75 percent raise next year. “It’s not a bad deal, it’s not a great deal,” says Shannon Duffy, administrative officer for the United Media Guild that began representing SJ-R employees in 2012 and has been trying to get a contract. “It’s good in the fact that people got raises for the first time in 10 years.” The contract, which expires in 2020, also freezes health insurance premiums. Duffy said that the union during negotiations learned that GateHouse, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, had been passing on increases in health insurance costs to employees at a faster clip than the company was absorbing increases, essentially shifting the burden to workers. The agreement in Springfield was reached in principle in late 2017 and extends to 13 other GateHouse newspapers with union contracts, Duffy said. He credited a campaign in which the union sought support from advertisers, civic leaders and faith organizations. The union had appealed directly to shareholders of New Media Investment Group, GateHouse’s parent company, attacking cost-cutting at the company’s newspapers, and Duffy said such efforts made a difference. Last year, New Media shareholders approved a guild-sponsored measure calling for annual elections for corporation board members, which the union billed as a vote of no confidence. Duffy credited employees in Springfield for forcing change at other union papers run by GateHouse. “What Springfield started affected 13 other newspapers,” Duffy said.

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