#NewsMatters in coordinated bargaining strategy

13 Guild bargaining units at Digital First Media groups have joined forces in a coordinated bargaining strategy.

Bill Ross, executive director of the Newspaper Guild of Philadelphia, provided an update on the strategy at TNG’s multi-council meeting in Cleveland in late April.

The stated goal is to “develop a coordinated bargaining strategy in upcoming negotiations with Digital First media. The goal is to coordinate efforts to increase leverage and to engage in joint economic bargaining on wages to secure fair pay increases and economic relief for members nationwide.”

DFM publishes 76 daily newspapers and more than 150 weekly newspapers. CWA represents approximately 1,000 of more than 8,000 employees at DFM papers.

The primary equity holder in DFM is Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund specializing in distressed assets. Alden’s business plan is expense reductions, systematic layoffs, buyouts, consolidation and outsourcing and selling off tangible assets. No new investments in business operations and technology are planned. DFM also recently purchased the Orange County Register.

A main focus is on sharing information. There are regular DFM caucus conference calls. National strategy meetings were held in Denver. A website was developed, along with Twitter and Facebook social media campaigns and monthly newsletters.

A joint escalation strategy has been developed as joint actions to build solidarity. They include: creation of the #NewsMatters newsletter, campaign flyers, desk tents that read “Time for a raise is now,” buttons with the #NewsMatters hashtag, T-Shirts, petitions and press releases.

DFM declined a joint request to bargain, so each unit will bargain separately on all issues except for wages. The units have proposed a 5 percent wage increase, or $1 per hour, whichever is greater. Also, a 3 percent wage increase to non-union employees.

The units applied to the CWA’s Strategic Industry Fund for support of collective bargaining grants to assist in coordinated bargaining with DFM, which was approved. The project coordinator is Darren Carroll. A six-month grant from Jan. 2016 through June 2016 of $150,000 was approved.