Top executives at the hedge fund that owns Digital First Media must have felt terrible that employees at the newspaper company weren’t getting any raises in 2017. So they did something about it. They gave themselves a raise.
DFM management came to a bargaining session empty-handed, telling a national coalition of NewsGuild representatives that the company’s hedge fund ownership intends to keep employee pay frozen companywide to help maintain its profits. Alden Global Capital, principal owner of Digital First Media, has earned worldwide notoriety for its ruthless staff cuts and double-digit profit margins. The ongoing damage to newsrooms across the country has triggered protests from New York to Denver to the Bay Area.
The North Bay newspaper’s Pulitzer – in the Breaking News category – continues an impressive run of journalism for newsrooms covered by the Pacific Media Workers Guild. The East Bay Times won a Pulitzer in 2016 for breaking news coverage of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
Members of the Bay Area News Group newsroom staff, winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the deadly Ghost Ship Fire, publicly denounced their corporate owner’s business practices Thursday.
Negotiations for a 2018 wage re-opener covering 13 bargaining units will open soon as Digital First Media ordered a new wave of staff cuts throughout California and in suburban Philadelphia in January. In response, DFM workers are escalating their contract campaign against Alden Global Capital, the New York hedge fund that owns DFM and that has been systematically stripping newspaper assets since 2012.
Guild executive officer Carl Hall has written to the management of Mexico City daily, La Jornada, protesting firings and union busting. After a short strike last June, the paper’s director, Tania Paulina Olmos, fired the leaders of its union. As of the date of the letter, nine officers and activists have been terminated, and they accuse Olmos of tearing up their union contract.
Let’s visit the DFM bosses. Invest in employees. Raise our pay. Now.
San Francisco Chronicle journalists held down the early shift Wednesday at the San Francisco Chronicle in solidarity with Guild workers everywhere and especially at the Digital First and Gatehouse organizations. About 800 members at the DFM chain, which includes the Bay Area News Group (East Bay Times and The Mercury News) and Monterey Herald, are seeking a pay increase in nationwide joint bargaining. The Guild is also contending with a recent consolidation announcement at the 2017 Pulitzer-winning East Bay Times that will cost 20 jobs.
A broad coalition of 1,500 unionized news workers will conduct a joint day of action on May 3 — World Press Freedom Day — as part of a national campaign to protest the corporate-led assault on quality journalism. The coordinated effort by NewsGuild members will span 29 newspapers owned by GateHouse Media and Digital First Media. It will support the fight for quality journalism at those papers and highlight the damage wrought by draconian cuts in their newsrooms and other departments.
We are proud to congratulate members of the East Bay Times staff whose contributions have been awarded the Pulitzer for coverage of the Ghost Ship Fire. Our senior Guild member, Harry Harris, long-time Oakland Tribune reporter, told ABC 7 News, “This is one of the few awards in journalism that …