Newspaper Guild Releases Details of Agreement

How a strike was averted, and Philly's major newspapers lived to fight another day.

With the future of Philly’s two major daily newspapers at stake and the clock ticking down toward a likely work stoppage, both sides on Friday gave a little something to get something.

Philadelphia Media Network — which owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and — decided that it would pay the increased health insurance costs of its employees. The Newspaper Guild — which represents journalists, advertising staff and other support workers at the papers — decided it would give a little bit on seniority, allowing the company some bit flexibility in deciding which staff it wants to keep in the event of future layoffs. (The details of the deal were released in a memo to guild employees this morning; see the full document below.)

The result? After eight months spent at impasse mostly over those issues — and barely 24 hours before their contract was due to expire — the two sides struck a deal, with the resulting handshake (seen above) between Stan Wischnowski, the company’s vice president for news operations, and Howard Gensler, the guild’s president.

“I’m absolutely elated that we got a fair contract,” Bill Ross, the Guild’s executive director. “We’d assured our members there’d be no givebacks this time. We’ve been giving back for 10 years.”

A company spokesman said no officials there would not comment until Guild leadership has communicated details of the agreement to members and scheduled a vote date.

Ross said he believed the tide turned late as the Guild mobilized members and allies in support of a new contract. Area labor leaders brought pressure to bear, and the Guild’s Thursday rally showed considerable solidarity.

Of course, the guild’s journalists will have to go back to covering those union allies — like Pat Eiding of AFL-CIO and Jerry Jordan of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers — in their news coverage. Ross taid there is no reason to expect those alliances to show up with favorable treatment in news coverage.

“We’ve always covered them fairly,” Ross said. “There are times they’re not happy with our members. That will continue.”

The full memo, with contract details, below:


As reported, the Guild and the Company reached a tentative agreement at 11 p.m. Friday, following eleven hours of bargaining. After the contracts for the main unit and are approved by the International in Washington, D.C., the Guild will schedule ratification votes for next week.


Two-year deal, from ratification.

No more furloughs. You will be paid for a 52-week year. Commission sales reps will no longer forfeit 6% of commissions.

No increase in health care costs and no changes to the health care plan for at least the first year of the contract.

Severance pay, dating back to the 2010 start date instituted by the hedge funds, will be doubled from one week to two weeks.

Weekend added responsibility pay returns (15%).

Subject to ratification, the Company will offer a new buyout program to employees of 25 years or more (40 weeks pay and six months of health care).

If there are reductions of force due to a layoff, those reductions will continue to be in seniority order but the Company may exempt up to 25% of employees in a group targeted for layoff if they are deemed to be essential to the Company’s operations. This is the much-discussed Washington Post language. What the Guild was able to retain, however, was the ability to grieve and arbitrate capricious exemptions that are not deemed to be essential to the Company’s operations. We hope this never comes into play.

The annual profit sharing plan remains.


Two-year deal, from ratification.

No increase in health care costs and no changes to the health care plan for at least the first year of the contract.

The first-ever wage scale with guaranteed annual raises for junior employees.

The first-ever improvement to the seniority language, which will now mirror the Main Unit’s new seniority language.

Two dozen work-rule improvements moved over from the main unit contract, including the end of 24-hour notice (or less) on schedule changes. The Company will now give 7 days notice on schedule changes.

The annual profit sharing plan remains.

Howard Gensler, Diane Mastrull, Brian McCrone and Bill Ross will be available today from 2-3 pm and 6-7 pm in the Strawberry Mansion Conference Room in the Daily News to answer any questions you may have about the key points of the new contracts. Before the ratification votes, we will have informational sessions about the contract details and you will also be able to ask questions then. (We have no other details about the pending buyout offer so please don’t ask at this time.)

This has been a very trying eight months and we truly appreciate your support. Your willingness to mobilize was important and instrumental to the deal. Although our industry has been weakened, our union is strong, and we will do whatever it takes to help the company turn things around in the months and years ahead.

In Solidarity,

Howard Gensler
Bill Ross
Diane Mastrull
Cindy Burton
Melanie Burney
Regina Medina
Brian McCrone