[caption id="attachment_195780" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The newsroom of The News Journal/Delaware Online recently reached their first two-year contract with parent company Gannett. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – In a first for the newsroom of Delaware’s largest newspaper, the newsroom of The News Journal/Delaware Online have ratified a two-year contract with national owner Gannett.The local members of the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, the local unit of the Communication Workers of America that represents 19 News Journal workers, voted 14-3 to ratify the contract, while three workers at associated state weeklies also unanimously supported the deal.The contract stipulates two $1,200 bonuses to all represented workers, one to be paid immediately and one that will be paid at the start of next year. It also maintains salaries and wages for all workers as long as they continue in their roles and sets a standard 40-hour workweek with mandatory time-and-a-half overtime pay. Paid time off will range from a minimum of 15 days a year to a maximum of 32, depending on the worker’s tenure.In return, the unionized workers agree to not strike during the effective time period that runs until March 2024.Meredith Newman, a reporter at the News Journal and a member of the guild’s bargaining committee, told Delaware Business Times that the workers made some concessions in the negotiations with Gannett, specifically in wage increases.“For us, it was just really important to create a really strong foundation and then build upon it in the coming years,” she said.It was important to the workers to get some protections, like just cause for dismissals, and some parity, like the IRS-designated mileage reimbursement rate and company employee 401(k) match rate, to be put into writing, Newman added.“Obviously, we can't predict the future – the pandemic might get worse again or they may decide to make a major change – but now we have a seat at the bargaining table to at least be involved and advocate for ourselves,” she said.Gannett did not respond to a request for comment on the guild’s first contract in Delaware.The union, known locally as the Delaware News Guild, announced its effort just days after its parent company, Gannett, laid off more than two dozen people at newspapers across the country in February 2020. The majority of those job losses were not unionized and in Florida or Ohio, according to an industry accounting of the losses.Gannett, which already dealt with more than a dozen newsroom unions at other papers, including the Detroit Free Press, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star and Arizona Republic, did not voluntarily recognize the Delaware union. A vote by represented workers passed only by a thin margin in August 2020. In the nearly two years since, the NewsGuild and Gannett have been at the bargaining table to hammer out an initial contract. Notably, several of the reporters who helped to organize the original effort have since left the paper for other professional opportunities.While the newspaper traces its roots back to 1785, it has published under the News Journal masthead since 1989 when The Morning News and The Evening Journal newspapers were combined. Gannett has owned the paper since it purchased it in 1978, but the parent company has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as it completed a $1.4 billion mega-merger with Gatehouse Media. The combined company is known as Gannett and operates more than 260 regional newspapers employing some 24,000 people.Like most newspapers around the U.S., the News Journal has been contending with falling circulation numbers in recent years. When Gannett bought the News Journal, it had a combined daily circulation of 140,000. As of August 2020, its daily reach was about 26,000, down 36% from nearly 41,000 just two years earlier and 69% from a decade ago when daily circulation was about 84,000.The newsroom has been hit by layoffs and buyouts in recent years, albeit in much smaller numbers than some of its Gannett peers. It has also seen many tenured members leave for other opportunities, especially in government communications.