News to close or merge four weekly Sun papers, three Guild members laid off

The Guild has been informed that The Buffalo News will shut down two weekly Sun papers, and merge two others, resulting in the layoff of two part-time Guild reporters and one full-time Guild page designer.
One Sun editor will also be laid off. Two other Guild Sun reporters also recently resigned.

Both the Twin Cities Sun and Lancaster-Depew Sun papers will fold on Jan. 22. In addition, the West Seneca Sun and Orchard Park Sun papers will be combined into a single weekly paper. 

The Hamburg Sun will continue unchanged.

“We’ve known some of the Sun papers have been struggling, but this is a terrible way to start off the new year,” said Guild President Sandy Tan. “Some very talented and hardworking colleagues are losing their jobs, through no fault of their own.” 

Vice President Brian Connolly, who serves as publisher of the Sun weeklies, outlined the many efforts to try to sustain and grow the Sun papers, which began with the relaunch of the Hamburg Sun in February 2017. Four other Sun papers were subsequently launched by The News from 2017 through 2018.

The Guild has worked collaboratively with The News to help make the Sun papers sustainable. But Connolly said that despite exhaustive efforts, only the Hamburg Sun has been profitable as a stand-alone weekly. The Covid-19 crisis has further fueled the company’s inability to turn these papers around.

The Sun paper agreement between The News and the Guild allows Guild-represented Sun employees to be laid off in reverse order of seniority for reasons such as the shutdown of individual Sun papers. However, any staffer who is laid off is entitled to priority consideration for future Guild-represented Sun paper positions that may open up in the future. 

Laid-off Guild members are entitled to one week of severance for every six months of service, in addition to payouts for unused vacation time. 

With the shutdown or merger of the other four papers, and layoffs and resignations, Guild membership at the Sun papers will shrink from nine to four. Three of the remaining positions are full time. Connolly said reporters will also absorb page design responsibilities.

The Guild urged management to look ahead to the economic recovery that is coming as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout moves forward. In addition, the Guild pointed to the company’s eligibility for the federal Paycheck Protection Program under the newly adopted 2021 stimulus package, which is meant to support businesses and save jobs with forgivable government loans to cover employee wages.