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

Merger will Combine Two of the Largest Newspaper Chains in the Country

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) 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.” 

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

 

Michael E. Reed                                                                     Paul Bascobert

CEO                                                                                        President & CEO

New Media Investment Group                                               Gannett Co., Inc.

1345 Avenue of the Americas                                                7950 Jones Branch Dr.

New York, NY 10105                                                             McLean, VA 22107

Dear Mr. Reed and Mr. Bascobert:

We write to urge you to voluntarily recognize any union representative selected by a majority of workers in any newsroom owned by New Media.  The recent New Media-Gannett merger could have significant impacts in your 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.

As you know, the merger combines the two largest U.S. newspaper chains and, as a result, New Media will own more than 600 newspapers across the country when it is complete.[1]   You have already announced plans to cut between $275 million and $300 million in costs annually once the merger is complete.[2]  If New Media’s past cost-cutting measures are any indicator, 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 New Media’s subsidiary GateHouse as part of the company’s effort to increase profits and shareholder value.

In the face of these layoffs, newsrooms 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 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 downsizing 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 the future of 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.  The New Media-Gannett 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,

 

______________________         

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator  

______________________         

Robert Menendez

United States Senator  

______________________         

Tammy Baldwin

United States Senator  

______________________         

Elizabeth Warren

United States Senator  

______________________         

Richard Blumenthal

United States Senator  

______________________         

Edward J. Markey

United States Senator  

______________________         

Bernard Sanders

United States Senator  

______________________         

Jack Reed

United States Senator  

______________________         

Cory A. Booker

United States Senator  

______________________         

Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator  

###



[1] Lombardo, Cara and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. “GateHouse Media Parent to Buy Gannett for $1.4 Billion.” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 5, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/gatehouse-media-parent-to-buy-gannett-for-1-4-billion-11565031875

[2] Bomey, Nathan. “Shareholders of USA TODAY owner Gannett and New Media Investment Group approve merger.”  USA TODAY, Nov. 14, 2019.  Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/11/14/gannett-new-media-investment-group-merger-vote-results/2578352001/

[3] Kennedy, Eleanor. “Columbus Dispatch lays off veteran reporters, others as parent company restructures.” Columbus Business First, May 24, 2019.  Retrieved from: https://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/news/2019/05/24/columbus-dispatch-lays-off-veteran-reporters.html

[4] Hardison, Kathryn. “GateHouse offers voluntary severance packages to some Tribune employees.” Missourian, Aug. 23, 2018.  Retrieved from: https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/local/gatehouse-offers-voluntary-severance-packages-to-some-tribune-employees/article_322cda8a-a71e-11e8-9198-0384ce72580e.html

[5] Florida Times-Union Staff. “Times-Union announces additional layoffs.” The Florida Times-Union, Jan. 18, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.jacksonville.com/news/metro/2018-01-18/times-union-announces-additional-layoffs

[6] Dinges, Gary. Tatestman to end Ahori Sí, offer voluntary severance to all employees.” Austin-American Statesman, Sep. 26, 2018.  Retrieved from: https://www.statesman.com/business/20180810/statesman-to-end-ahora-s-offer-voluntary-severance-to-all-employees

[7] NewsGuild-CWA. Aug. 5, 2019. “Facing Gannett, GateHouse Merger, NewsGuild Renews Commitment to Save Local News.”  Retrieved from: http://newsguild.org/mediaguild3/facing-gannett-gatehouse-merger-newsguild-renews-commitment-to-save-local-news/

[8] Abernathy, Penelope M. The Expanding News Desert. University of North Carolina Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, Oct. 15, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.usnewsdeserts.com/