Pioneer Press workers join nationwide contract campaign, win first raise in seven years

newsmattersAfter banding together with workers at 11 other newspapers owned by the same hedge fund, union members at the St. Paul Pioneer Press won their first wage increase in seven years, part of a new three-year contract they voted to ratify Aug. 9.

Members of the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild will receive 3-percent raises Jan. 1, 2017, according to terms of the new agreement, which also calls for “wage reopeners” – negotiations that could lead to additional raises – in the contract’s second and third years.

As they did this summer, Pioneer Press workers will participate in any additional bargaining jointly with other members of Guild locals employed by Digital First Media, a newspaper group owned by Alden Global Capital.

In an innovative and historic contract campaign, Pioneer Press workers joined forces with fellow Guild members at publications across the country, including The Denver Post, The Mercury News, The Trentonian and eight others.

Together, they launched the “#NewsMatters” campaign more than seven moths ago, using social media, member mobilization and an online petition drive to put the heat on management. More than 11,000 people nationwide joined in calling on Digital First to support quality journalism by negotiating fairly with the workers who make it possible.

Last month, the campaign delivered results at the bargaining table, as Digital First workers leveraged their collective weight to win across-the-board raises at all 12 newspapers, including some that hadn’t seen increases in 10 years.

But the company refused to budge when it came to one major concession: job security for workers in circulation and page production.

According to the Guild, the Pioneer Press is likely to outsource field circulation to local contractors, which would affect about 36 workers, mostly part-time. And up to eight local page-production workers could see their jobs outsourced before the new contract expires, as Digital First looks to centralize production at a common location for all of its publications.

In a statement on the Minnesota Guild’s website, the Pioneer Press bargaining team said it secured a “letter of agreement regarding enhanced severance packages and limits on the number of positions that may be outsourced” in production, and enhanced severance for any outsourced circulation employees.

The new contract also rolls back the Pioneer Press’ ability to furlough Guild members, capping the number of unpaid days management can impose at three in 2018 and eliminating unpaid days altogether in 2019.

The Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild, TNG-CWA Local 37002, currently represents 167 Pioneer Press employees.

A grant from the Communications Workers of America, the Newspaper Guild’s parent union, helped make the joint bargaining framework possible, covering travel and other costs.

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