Guild members ratify tentative agreement

8.6.21 – Buffalo Newspaper Guild members overwhelmingly ratified the bargaining team’s tentative agreement with The Buffalo News/Lee Enterprises in a 75-1 vote tallied Friday afternoon. The three-year deal offers a Guild-wide 5% raise and improves Guild jurisdiction and other important benefits.

But it also allows for the company to outsource work in several departments and offers new pension enhancements and 401(k) contributions in exchange for the freezing of the Guild pension plan.

“To see this level of support for the tentative agreement is the ultimate reward for our bargaining team,” said Guild President Sandy Tan. “We really struggled with difficult compromises. This vote tells us our members believe us when we say we reached the best deal possible under new ownership.”

Beyond Guild-wide raises, all members will receive a $1,000 signing bonus for full-timers, and a $500 signing bonus for part-timers in October. The new agreement also includes “wage equity” raises that add $1 per hour to wages in Inside Circulation, Accounting and our part-time district managers.

The contract also provides non-exclusive digital jurisdiction, which is vital to the union’s future, and the company’s commitment to label all online sponsored content. The deal provides more paid days off, a work from home policy, and a greater commitment to diversity hiring and anti-discrimination policies.

Existing health care benefits continue under the new contract. The company also backed off of proposals to cut mileage reimbursements and to weaken seniority-based layoffs and cut the News’ Editorial Print Desk. Compromises were made in regard to severance for new hires, extended sick leave and certain job security provisions.

The agreement includes unavoidable concessions, including the outsourcing of Inside Circulation, Accounting and the Editorial Design Desk. The deal would also allow the freeze and merger of the Editorial pension and will weaken job security language, and reduce severance for new hires.

However, all employees whose jobs will be outsourced will be entitled to enhanced severance. Page designers will also receive short-term job security through 2022 and may be offered remote work opportunities at Lee design centers. Outsourced customer service jobs will stay in the United States. The company also intends to hire more full-time district managers and may offer part-time district managers voluntary buyouts as part of any future restructuring.

While the company will have the right to freeze and merge the Guild’s pension plan, members will receive pension enhancements and 401(k) contributions not available under the existing contract.

The company will offer two months advance notice of a pension freeze and four months advance notice of any outsourcing. In either event, the union will contract with financial planners to help members protect their savings and make smart decisions regarding their retirement.

The bargaining team thanks the many Guild and community members who did their part to aid mobilization and communication efforts. It made a difference. Tan reserved special thanks for the members of the bargaining team – Kim Leiser, the Guild’s administrator and chief negotiator, Diana Gawron, Mike McAndrew and Joan Portman, without whom this deal would not have been possible.

“A key takeaway from these negotiations is that the community cares about The Buffalo News, its future and its people,” Tan said. “I think both sides learned a lot over these past five months. Labor peace has value, and we look forward to working cooperatively with the company going forward, as always.”