11.20.19

Baldwin, Brown, Menendez Lead Senators Urging Media Companies to Recognize Workers’ Unions

GateHouse-Gannett merger will combine two of country’s largest newspaper chains

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a group of his Democratic colleagues urging Gannett News and GateHouse to voluntarily recognize any union selected by a majority of workers in any GateHouse- or Gannett-owned newsroom. The anticipated GateHouse-Gannett merger could have significant impacts on the companies’ newsrooms and their communities. Union representation will help newspaper employees better advocate for the pay, benefits, and job security they deserve during this transition, while also give a voice to the communities that rely on the newspapers you own.

“Union representation will empower workers to advocate not only for themselves but also their newspapers and communities,” the senators wrote. “In many communities, local newspapers are the primary source of news and information, yet the consequences of closing or hollowing out a newspaper are not considered by news executives seeking to maximize shareholder value and profit.  Through collective bargaining with the newsrooms, affected communities will have a voice in decisions about their newspapers.” 

The newly combined media company, which will continue to operate under the Gannett name, owns the following Wisconsin news brands: Appleton Post-Crescent, Fond du Lac Reporter, Green Bay Press Gazette, Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, Marshfield News Herald, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oshkosh Northwestern, Sheboygan Press, Stevens Point Journal, Wausau Daily Herald, Wisconsin Law Journal, Wisconsin Rapids Tribune.

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also signed this letter.

A copy of the Senators’ letter to Gannett Co. Inc. and GateHouse Media can be found below and HERE:

 

November 19, 2019

 

Mr. Kirk Davis                                                                        Paul Bascobert

CEO                                                                                        President & CEO

GateHouse Media                                                                   Gannett Co., Inc.

175 Sully’s Trail, 3rd Floor                                                     7950 Jones Branch Drive

Pittsford, NY 14534                                                               McLean, VA 22107

 

Dear Mr. Davis and Mr. Bascobert:

We write to urge Gannett News and GateHouse to voluntarily recognize any union selected by a majority of workers in any GateHouse- or Gannett-owned newsroom.  The anticipated GateHouse-Gannett merger could have significant impacts on your companies’ newsrooms and their communities.  Union representation will help newspaper employees better advocate for the pay, benefits, and job security they deserve during this transition.  It will also give a voice to the communities that rely on the newspapers you own.

The merger will combine the two largest U.S. newspaper chains and, as a result, GateHouse will own more than 600 newspapers across the country when it is complete.[1]   GateHouse has already said it plans to cut between $275 million and $300 million in costs annually after the merger goes through.[2]  If GateHouse’s past cost-cutting measures are any indicator, your newsroom employees are right to be concerned about the future of their newspapers and their jobs.  The Columbus Dispatch[3], the Columbia Daily Tribune[4], the Florida Times-Union[5], and the Austin American-Statesman[6], among others, all saw their newsrooms shrink after they were purchased by GateHouse as part of an effort to increase profits and shareholder value.

In the face of these layoffs, employees at your companies are increasingly turning to union representation to advocate for themselves and their local newspapers.  Recent organizing efforts have resulted in union representation for employees at the Arizona Republic Guild and the Florida Times-Union, and the NewsGuild-CWA now represents 33 bargaining units of approximately 1,100 workers at your two companies.[7]  Given the increasing interest in union representation among your employees, we urge you to voluntarily recognize any union representative selected by a majority of employees in any of your newsrooms.  Your employees deserve to have a voice at the table.

Union representation will empower workers to advocate not only for themselves but also their newspapers and communities.  Almost one-fifth, or nearly 1,800, of all U.S. newspapers have closed since 2004.  As a result, 171 counties have no local newspaper, and almost half of all U.S. counties have access to one newspaper, often one that is published once a week.[8]  In many communities, local newspapers are the primary source of news and information, yet the consequences of closing or hollowing out a newspaper are not considered by news executives seeking to maximize shareholder value and profit.  Through collective bargaining with the newsrooms, affected communities will have a voice in decisions about their newspapers. 

Newspapers, particularly local newspapers, are critical to an informed public and a strong democracy.  Consolidation in the news industry has led to the hollowing out of newsrooms, and communities across the country are paying the price.  As soon-to-be owners of more than 600 newspapers, you have a responsibility to preserve Americans’ access to high-quality, locally reported news.  Your anticipated merger will have a significant impact on the livelihoods of your employees and the communities they report in.  Voluntarily recognizing union representation for any of your newsrooms who choose it will ensure both the workers and the communities have a voice in that process.

Sincerely,