Journalism is a noble profession. But it is also a business that needs to be healthy and sustainable. No one is disputing that. There isn’t one person at IndyStar who doesn’t want to be working for a successful, profitable organization.
The industry and Gannett ask more and more of journalists: Produce a video and a gallery on deadline? Check. Optimize stories for SEO? Check. Live tweet from an event and then turn around and write a sophisticated story? Check. Engage with readers on social media? Check. Analyze metrics? Check.
They do all this even as their profession is under attack. They do all this knowing there is no guarantee they won’t be laid off.
And what are members of the Indianapolis News Guild asking for in return? To be valued and treated with respect. It is unconscionable to withhold merit raises from journalists who excel at their craft. It is wrong for Gannett to contribute less to their health care than they do other employees.
I worked at The Indianapolis Star for almost 30 years. These journalists, both Guild members and managers, are dedicated to this community. They sacrifice time with their loved ones to be our watchdogs and storytellers.
They deserve a fair contract from Gannett.
I stand with IndyStar journalists.
Jenny Morlan worked for The Indianapolis Star for nearly three decades. She most recently served as the editor for the IndyStar North Team.
Over the past several weeks, Indianapolis Star reporters have drawn national recognition for their work. This well-deserved recognition will have a lasting effect on the newspaper’s profile.
But as management throughout Gannett has praised the tireless work of Star journalists, it has become impossible to ignore that negotiations between Gannett and the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild have completely stalled.
At the center of the issue: health care for Guild members.
In a prior contract, Guild members negotiated to ditch Gannett’s inadequate health care plan. We found a better deal through the United Furniture Workers Insurance Fund — at no additional cost to Gannett.
Yet that’s no longer good for Gannett. The company no longer wants to support its hard-working employees’ wishes.
If members agreed to switch to Gannett’s health plan, we would pay more for inferior coverage. That’s why we’re fighting.
When our contract expired Dec. 21, the Guild and Gannett agreed to maintain the status quo of last year’s health plan on a monthly basis. The agreement is already affecting Guild members. Some members are paying at least $60 more per month for their health care, as negotiations drag on.
The past several weeks have shown us how much #JournalismMatters. Now it’s time to recognize that the people who make journalism possible matter, too.
As we work to persuade Gannett to cover our 2016 health insurance cost increases, we learned something very interesting late last week: Gannett is already planning to do that for another of the newspapers in its chain.
We refer to the Gannett paper in Sheboygan, WI, which like us signed on last year with the United Furniture Workers as its insurance provider. Sheboygan’s management agreed to pay between 5 and 6 percent more in 2016, enough to cover the entirety of the health insurance cost increases at Sheboygan. That’s about the same price increase we face with our plan.
Yet for some reason, Star management insists that our people bear the full burden of the 2016 health insurance cost increases. It’s a troubling move that for workers with families could amount to a pay cut of nearly $1,000 next year. Most other workers would see increases of $200 to $300 next year.
A year ago, The Guild went out and found a better insurance than Gannett’s, one that kept costs the same or lower while increasing benefits. In some cases, our members saved thousands of dollars. It was a win for The Star, too. The Guild’s insurance made The Star’s benefits package more attractive to potential new hires.
Now, it seems as if The Star is trying to take advantage of our savings by shifting more costs to employees rather than sharing the load next year. It’s not that way in Sheboygan. It doesn’t have to be that way here.
Are The Star’s employees and their families less valuable than Sheboygan’s? We don’t think so. Let us know what you think.
And stay tuned to this situation. We may ask you to take actions to help persuade The Star to take a lesson from Sheboygan, of all places.