Baltimore without The Sun?

Several weeks ago, our parent company Tribune Publishing delivered a devastating proposal to The Baltimore Sun Guild to effectively gut our union as we know it. 

We, the reporters, photographers, columnists, editorial writers, advertising reps, commercial artists, customer service reps, building department workers, clerks and librarian who make up the Baltimore Sun Guild, believe this proposal would put Baltimore on a path toward losing its essential journalistic institution.

Among the worst of Tribune’s proposed changes, the company wants to be able to:

  • Eliminate jobs by outsourcing

  • Eliminate salary step increases that enable young hires to reach a living wage

  • Eliminate seniority

  • Remove the advertising employees from the Guild, leaving them totally unprotected

  • Eliminate the requirement of four weeks’ notice before layoffs

  • Move Guild members into different jobs, with the ability to cut pay by 25% and to fire those who cannot perform their new role to managers’ satisfaction.

  • Unilaterally extend the 40-hour work week across six days at the publisher's discretion. 

This is unsustainable.

On this Labor Day, we’re reflecting on how the company’s proposal would destroy the quality of our publication. The Baltimore Sun has been our watchdog, ready to call out injustice and corruption in the city we love. So we are giving management a taste of what the newspaper might be like if all of the reporters and photographers who deliver the news were no longer around. 

Starting today, The Baltimore Sun Guild will be withholding our bylines for a week ending Sept. 9, to demonstrate what is at stake. When you see an article or photo without a byline this week, imagine what our daily newspaper would look like without these stories. 

Our top priority is to preserve The Baltimore Sun and ensure its journalism will be around for years to come. We ask that you support our mission to #SaveOurSun.

Journalism matters? Apparently not

You gotta say this for Tribune Publishing. When it comes to contract negotiations, they’re an equal opportunity insulter.

On Day One, the company came out of the gate with proposals that demean our hard, award-winning work and seek to take money, job security, and benefits away from us. All of us. Work in a part of the business that is easily outsourced? The company wants to lay you off and send your job somewhere else. If you’re a younger member of the staff, who took a low starting salary because it would go up in each of the next five years? Sorry, the company wants to eliminate step increases. If you’re a longer-standing employee who has earned seniority? Sorry, come layoff time, your years of service give you no protection if the company has its way. If you’re someone who sometimes gets sick, or if your job changes or gets outsourced or heaven forbid you’re laid off? Hey, the company has a plan for how to make that even more awful.

If you’ve followed @baltsunguild’s live tweeting, you know some of this, but to recap the lowlights, the company has proposed to: 

  • Remove advertising employees from the Guild, leaving them totally unprotected

  • Eliminate your job if it chooses to outsource it instead.

  • Unilaterally extend your 40-hour work week across six days, if the publisher chooses.

  • Reduce your sick leave to five days a year and force you to trust it will offer short-term disability.

  • Lift the cap that prevents what you pay for health care from going up more than 4 percent a year.

  • Eliminate the four weeks’ notice you get before being laid off.

  • Move you to any job they want, with the ability to cut your pay 25 percent and fire you if they say you’re not good at it.

  • Replace the IRS-set mileage rate (currently .58/mile) we get for using our own cars to cover the news or sell ads and allow the company to set the rate (it’s currently 45 cents).

  • Take $75 a month out of your paycheck for a parking spot at Port Covington.

Terrible, right? And this is only the first day of negotiations.

First thing to note: You should attend when you can -- it’s an eye-opening experience, plus it shows the company we’ve got the committee’s back and we’re united against such draconian changes to the contract. The Guild will be distributing the company’s nightmare wish list in its full glory to all members, so you can get a full sense of just how little they care about us.

Here’s the thing: We knew the company was going to play hardball and demand givebacks in exchange for any raises. Which of course makes it no raise at all. 

But we’re not powerless here. The public and the industry values what we do, and we are already seeing strong support on social media. We can point to any number of ways we’ve held everyone from Mayor Pugh to President Trump accountable for their words and deeds. After years of contract extensions and no raises, this is the right time and the right place to make a stand. We have to stay united, and push back against a company that says journalism matters but those who produce it don’t.