Rockford journalists ready to fight for overdue wage increases

Journalists at the Rockford Register Star and Freeport Journal-Standard have endured an eternal wage free while senior GateHouse managers helped themselves to healthy compensation increases.

Not surprisingly, pay — or the lack thereof — was the hot topic in the United Media Guild bargaining survey that most Register Star journalists filled out.

“No raise since 1998 – also cut the yearly bonus and premium for not being on company insurance,” wrote one employee.

“My wage rate is pathetic,” wrote another employee. “I have a college degree, years of experience and I am treated like a kindergarten student. I expect professional respect.”

Another journalists cited ever-increasing duties. “My responsibilities increase but wages never do . . . My co-workers haven’t seen increases in about a decade.”

In some cases, employees have assumed some managerial duties of departed editors without increases in pay. While most of the newsroom employees at these two newspapers are eligible to collect overtime, it can be point of contention.

“I am compensated for overtime, but it is frowned upon to have it,” one employee wrote. “I work long hours at least two days a week and then try to cut hours on other days, but that can prove difficult with these people.”

Harried journalists often work through their lunch hours. “While I get overtime when worked, I often work through lunch hour,” a journalist wrote. “Lunches punched are fake lunches.”

Salaried employees would like to see the end of their 50- to 60-hour work weeks. A journalist requested that “salaried workers in the union not have work more than 45 hours in a week.”

On the positive side, several employees noted that Register Star managers worked to accommodate employee scheduling needs, when possible, and allowed flexibility within the workweek.

Many members of our the Rockford unit have expressed interest in maintaining that flexibility going forward.

Soon leaders of the Rockford unit will begin formulating their opening demands for collective bargaining. The United Media Guild is still working with GateHouse to firm up the starting date for negotiations for employees of these newspapers.

The UMG is currently in negotiations with GateHouse in Springfield for a first contract at the State Journal-Register.

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