NNE, Gazette union reach agreement on contract

  • The Daily Hampshire Gazette on Conz Street in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 12/27/2021 3:28:25 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After two years of negotiations with the newspaper’s ownership, unionized employees at the Daily Hampshire Gazette announced on Monday that they ratified their first-ever contract with Newspapers of New England (NNE), the newspaper’s ownership.

Over the weekend, The Pioneer Valley NewsGuild voted to approve a two-year collective bargaining agreement with NNE, which it says secures important protections and benefits for its 23 members in circulation, advertising, graphic design and the newsroom.

The contract provides protections against union members losing their job to outsourcing, a 3% raise in the coming year and 2% raise the next year, additional vacation time for longtime employees and severance guarantees that include three months of fully paid health care, according to the NewsGuild.

Bera Dunau, the union’s unit council chair and a staff writer at the newspaper, said Monday’s announcement has been the result of more than four years of organizing and over two years at the bargaining table.

“I am so proud of what we have accomplished as a union and I am excited to see what the future brings for us and the newspaper we love,” Dunau said.

Shawn Palmer, publisher of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, said that since joining the Gazette in January he has been focused on reaching an agreement with the NewsGuild.

“I am very happy that we have come to terms and I look forward to a year of growth for the Gazette in 2022,” Palmer said.

Aaron Julien, president of the Gazette, said the company was “happy to have reached a mutually acceptable agreement with the NewsGuild, and look forward to a productive 2022.”

Employees at the Gazette announced their intent to unionize in November 2018, which was approved in a National Labor Relations Board election the following month.

According to staff writer and union member Dusty Christensen, at its inception the union consisted of 75 members. He said that since that time, layoffs and outsourcing have diminished its membership.

In protest over further potential outsourcing, this October union members began to “work to rule,” meaning they would cease doing any work that goes beyond their required duties. This was followed by the announcement of a byline strike in November.

In December, 12 columnists who write for the Gazette announced a writers strike, in solidarity with the union. Among those withdrawing their work were state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa and state Sen. Jo Comerford, who both write columns for the paper.

The monthly columnists said they would only begin writing again once the paper’s ownership reached a contract with its workers.

“We could not have achieved this historic victory without the unwavering support of community members across the Connecticut River Valley,” Christensen said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the community to strengthen the Fourth Estate here in western Massachusetts.”

The collective bargaining agreement is the first for the newspaper’s 235-year history.


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