Ruthless hedge funds with no regard for journalists or journalism have taken over dozens of newspapers across the country, including many Guild publications.
This called for a special approach to collective bargaining — and it’s working, though we can still do better, and we will.
The Guild conducted two major efforts that involved bargaining directly with an owner across several locals and units. Importantly the members and locals involved did this voluntarily and could jump out at any time. They chose to stick together.
Digital First Media was the first effort at coordinated bargaining, which companies are not obligated to do. We convinced them it was in their best interest. We bargained across multiple properties and were able to gain a small wage increase. That was the first round. The Guild is going back to the table soon. This has led to a large media campaign — complete with investigative reporting and demonstrations — to push them to act like responsible publishers. They have come up woefully short, but we’re keeping the pressure on.
The effort has still been a major success in identifying DFM and Alden Capital, the hedge fund that owns it, as bad actors in the industry. We’ve used social media strategies to amplify the Guild’s voice – Twitter, Facebook and other channels. DFM continues to inflict major damage to its products and our members. Many members have been laid off. The Guild has done more to identify the loss of local journalism than almost any institution in North America.
Because of the DFMworkers.org effort we understand that social media is key to any campaign – organizing, bargaining or movement building. We subsidized training for local activists. We believe it’s key to continue this because it focuses on the use of social media for activist work which is different from what most members do with social media. Still, Guild folks are naturals at this.
Gatehouse Media, owned by Fortress hedge fund, was the next employer we worked with. Again, this approach was the choice of locals. And locals again had the ability to opt out along the way but did not. Gatehouse was more complicated but the coordinated bargaining effort not only has led to contract agreements, it has led to first contracts for new groups. That’s huge.
There’s no question that coordinating bargaining across locals and units is hard work. And it has to be voluntary and cooperative. But we’re very proud of the work so far and will continue it wherever it makes sense. We are using our leverage and building power. We know this is not a panacea. Sometimes, knowing you’re in it with others makes all the difference in the world. It’s also building the Guild.
And remember: when we fight together, we win.