Indianapolis News Guild members hold funeral expired contract

Members of the Indianapolis News Guild held a funeral service on Wednesday to memorialize their collective bargaining agreement, which expired September 1, 2020.

They gathered in the newsroom dressed in black and took turns sharing eulogies, accompanied by bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” Below the photo gallery, the Guild’s contract is memorialized in an obituary written by Guild vice president Binghui Huang.

As the two year anniversary of the contract’s expiration approaches, the Guild continues to push for a fair contract for journalists at IndyStar.

In loving memory…

The Indianapolis News Guild contract, of Indianapolis, died on September 1, 2020.

Born out of the hard work and desire for a safe and happy workplace, the contract lived a hard life. She was held back from achieving her full potential by Gannett, the parent company of the IndyStar employees she represented.

All she ever wanted was to protect IndyStar journalists from unfair treatment, ensure they were paid fairly and equitably, provide lifesaving health care and give them a voice in making decisions about their work lives. 

But at a young age, Gannett started to strip away her power.

She watched as the company forced pay cuts. She watched as part of her work, work that was rightfully hers, was later transferred to a new “digital optimization team.”

A few years before her death, the healthcare insurance she provided was taken away, which meant some journalists had to pay thousands more annually for insurance. She never recovered from that. 

As journalists fought to keep her strong, the company sought to gut her more. As she was weakened, so was the newsroom, its journalism and the public accountability that Indianapolis desperately needed. 

We mourn your expiration, contract. 

You ensured we were paid a bare minimum. You gave us some control over our schedules. You made it easier to work this stressful job and have a family. You made sure we had a voice when things changed, as they inevitably do. You made sure we were treated fairly. 

We look forward to the day when a new contract is ratified in your honor.

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The message is simple, Gannett: Our pay scales are out of style.

We have a special anniversary coming up.

In just over a month, our contract will be 2 years expired.

Gannett has been slow to come to the table, and has, at times, come unprepared despite having many months to prepare. Our guild has attempted to move toward the company with its proposals, with little movement from Gannett.

While the company has yet to respond to our economics-related proposals to increase pay for reporters and photographers, and bring our pay scales up-to-date, the company’s response to salary proposals made by the Arizona Republic Guild, for example, has been discouraging.

We will no longer be silent.

Photo by Grace Hollars

Today, our members are dressed in styles from past decades to draw attention to the woefully outdated pay scales in our contract. Forget recent record inflation — these minimum pay requirements haven’t been updated in years.

The minimum salary in our current pay scale is $32,000, which is tens of thousands of dollars lower than the median income in Indiana. To account for inflation alone, that number should be at least $40,000.  

Meanwhile, Gannett’s CEO Mike Reed brought home $7.74 million in 2021.

We think some things should stay in the 2000s — low-rise jeans, crimped hair, Nickelback’s music… and most importantly, our pay scales. We’re telling Gannett to get with the times.

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Gannett reduces parking costs for IndyStar journalists for most of 2022

Today, we have cause for celebration.

IndyStar’s parent company, Gannett, has agreed to lower monthly parking rates for members of our bargaining unit starting in March through the end of 2022, slashing costs for some of our members by more than half. It’s a win nearly two years in the making.

While reporting through a public health crisis, when the company barred us from working from the office, our journalists collectively spent over $13,000 for parking spots they didn’t need. At the same time, Gannett paid out bonuses to CFOs that could’ve paid our parking expenses 127 times over.

But Gannett’s greed didn’t just affect our members who paid for parking. The company also chose to get rid of company cars that allowed flexibility for our members without cars onsite to go to assignments or cover breaking news.

So, we filed expense reports. We taped our parking receipts to our news director’s office window. We threatened mass cancellation.

Indianapolis News Guild members deliver a letter informing Gannett leadership of plans for members to cancel parking on November 29, 2021. Photo: Ko Lyn Cheang

We spoke up and IndyStar leaders listened. Through collective action, we’ve reached a compromise that will boost morale, encourage in-office collaboration and save our members hundreds of dollars they would have paid to come to work.

This is what union power can do. This is a product of the community we’ve built in the Indianapolis News Guild.

Congratulations and good work, colleagues.

Now, let’s keep up the momentum. It’s been almost two years since our contract expired – let’s get the fair contract we deserve.  

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Pay our pandemic parking expenses, Gannett.

An important part of our job as journalists is the ability to be nimble, to pick up and go at a moment’s notice and get somewhere quickly.

This requires reliable transportation, which we know isn’t feasible for every single employee or intern on their own.

Gannett, IndyStar’s parent company, has taken multiple steps that have made this harder for everyone.

The company saddled hardworking journalists with fees for the office parking garage even as they were barred from working in the office for 17 months, while fire-hosing two Chief Financial Officers with more than $1.7 million in bonuses.

And those who are now returning to the office face yet another transportation challenge: The company stripped IndyStar of its vehicles that staff who walk or bike to work could use during the work day to get to assignments or breaking news quickly. 

In the same breath, CEO Mike Reed told his employees this in a July 2020 email: “It’s critically important that we manage our expenses conservatively through the pandemic, enabling us to position our business for greater success as the economy rebounds.”

Why can’t they give us, their bottom line, what amounts to a drop in the bucket?

That’s why earlier this month, members of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild filed expense reports for what we’ve paid in unnecessary parking expenses over the course of the pandemic. Our members who walk or bike to work or were recently hired filed reports requesting a penny to show solidarity.

In total, we filed at least $13,340 in parking expenses. Those bonuses paid to Gannett executives could have paid for that 127 times over.

And without the company vehicles, we have members who will have to take expensive Ubers or be forced to pay the costly parking fees to have a personal vehicle on-site, once we are required to return to the office full time.

Obviously, transportation is just one issue of many we’re fighting as we continue contract negotiations. But we feel it’s important not to let the company off the hook when they needlessly nickel-and-dime the very employees whose work they’ve praised endlessly during a once-a-century catastrophe.

But, unlike the combined salaries, stock options and bonus payouts to two CEOs, talk is cheap. It’s time for Gannett to support its journalists.


Read our letter to IndyStar and Gannett leadership, sent September 16, 2021:

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Gannett proposal would take away sick days — during a pandemic

The Indianapolis News Guild wants paid time off protected, especially during COVID-19

Since last March, journalists of the Indianapolis News Guild have dutifully covered a pandemic that has changed all of our lives. That’s why those same local journalists found it ironic when Gannett recently proposed a change to our paid time off plan that would eliminate dedicated sick days.

This proposal would take away more than a week of paid time off from some members. While Gannett looks to remove sick days, it has already furloughed workers and stopped 401(k) matches. Meanwhile, other news organizations are helping their journalists during the pandemic with increased benefits, such as additional days off and bonuses.

“IndyStar journalists have been working so hard to keep our communities informed during this public health crisis,” Indy News Guild President Natalia Contreras said. “But Gannett keeps coming after its workers.”

Member Tony Cook has seen what happens when sick days go away.

“I previously worked at another news outlet that cut sick days,” Cook said. “I had to work despite an extended illness. I don’t want that to happen here. Not during a pandemic.”

Cook said parenting during a pandemic is already a challenge — and having less PTO will only make it harder.

The Guild supports a paid time off policy that protects local journalists’ well-earned time off, including sick days.

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For more information:

Natalia Contreras, president, Indianapolis News Guild
indynewsguild70@gmail.com, 361-695-1553

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