June 14, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HONOLULU — Workers, community members and reporters are reacting with shock to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s announcement Thursday it is laying off half of the newsroom. This devastation at the state’s largest newspaper will permanently damage the critical news coverage Hawaii depends on.
“This decision was disappointing, frustrating and unnecessary,” said Dan Nakaso, a reporter and editor at the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Advertiser since 1992. “Oahu Publications Inc. is using a sweeping, harmful method to gain financial savings for the company that can be achieved without such massive disruption. For months, employees in the Pacific Media Workers Guild have repeatedly asked ownership to agree to a comprehensive furlough program that would share the sacrifice among all staff, avoid the need for layoffs and thus preserve jobs, and minimize the impact to workers, families and news coverage.”
However, instead the Star-Advertiser demanded furloughs that locked in massive staff reductions to the end of February. Rather than working with the Guild to find more cost savings, the Star-Advertiser then laid off 31 staff members.
Despite claims by publisher Dennis Francis that the Pacific Media Workers Guild “did not want to return to the table,” the Guild has never refused to bargain.
“We have always been ready to work together to ensure high-quality news coverage and a financial future for the Star-Advertiser,” Nakaso said. “But the company skipped or canceled multiple meetings and has not seriously engaged in a dialogue with us around these issues. We know that there can be a better way, but we’re still waiting for Dennis Francis and the Star-Advertiser to meet with us to make it happen.”
If the company is serious about layoffs, it means a massive and needless reduction in news coverage for our islands. If the layoff announcement is a means to pressure employees to reduce hours for more than seven months, it means OPI is cavalierly playing games with working families and community trust. In any event, it is a drastic tactic that was, and remains, wholly unnecessary.
Workers are hopeful that OPI’s actions have not toxified bargaining talks. The Pacific Media Workers Guild will continue to seek an agreement that recognizes the economic impact of COVID-19 and maintains the comprehensive coverage produced by Star-Advertiser staff.
“I’m heartened that so many readers — and so many local businesses — have continued to support local journalism,” Nakaso said. “We have a responsibility to honor that support by continuing to produce award-winning work.”
We’re looking for community support. We’re asking our readers and supporters to write or call president and publisher Dennis Francis and join us in expressing our dismay. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is (808) 529-4702.
BACKGROUND AND TIMELINE
- On seven different occasions, starting on March 18, workers at the Star-Advertiser requested, in writing, legally mandated bargaining about furloughs and hours reductions.
- The company refused repeatedly, forcing the use of contract grievances, until finally agreeing on May 7.
- On two different occasions, the company called off or failed to attend scheduled meetings.
- After bargaining sessions that yielded productive talks that appeared to be moving toward an agreement, OPI canceled a June 3 meeting that could have meant a finished agreement — and then announced the layoffs that would reduce the newsroom staff by 50 percent.
- Dan Nakaso, Star-Advertiser reporter: email@example.com, (808) 342-8824
- Jason Genegabus, Star-Advertiser online reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org, (808) 469-7609
- Susan Essoyan, Star-Advertiser reporter: email@example.com, (808) 779-7074