PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Reporters and other employees at The Providence Journal rallied outside the newspaper’s downtown headquarters on Thursday to protest what they say is a decision by its corporate parent to ignore part of their new union contract.
The dispute, which has been simmering for weeks, involves the new contract ratified July 24 by the Providence Newspaper Guild.
The contract includes a provision that Guild members say entitles them to five additional sick or personal days, bargained for in exchange for other concessions. But Journal employees say they have run into resistance when they try to utilize the additional time off.
Betsy Regan, the Guild’s administration, said Journal owner Gatehouse “is not honoring [the] signed contract” and said a grievance has been filed. It comes the same day as a hearing where Journal leaders asked the state to let the paper stop paying overtime on Sundays or holidays.
At the rally, Journal employees carried signs with slogans including “Gatehouse: Keep Your Word” and “Bosses Get Bonuses – Workers Get Zilch!”
In an email, Journal publisher Peter Meyer countered that the two sides simply have “a difference in opinion around the interpretation of paid time off language in the new contract, which was an amalgamation of numerous agreements reached over a couple years.” He also said the paper’s leaders are “working with the union on a resolution.”
“The union certainly has the right to picket and attempt to make the company look like the bad guy, but I don’t see how that helps to bring us together and move forward,” Meyer added.
Gatehouse bought The Journal in 2014 and is currently seeking to merge with Gannett, a transaction that would create the largest newspaper company in American history.
Democratic Congressman David Cicilline — who has introduced legislation that would benefit Gatehouse by allowing local newspapers to negotiate as a group with tech giants — criticized the company’s handling of the Journal contract.
“Gatehouse should honor the agreement they have with union workers in Rhode Island,” he said in a statement. “The right to organize and collectively bargain is critical for building and keeping a strong middle class.”
Cicilline has garnered national headlines as leader of the House Judiciary Committee subcommittee on antitrust, which has been examining the effect of corporate consolidation on the economy. The panel has not scheduled a hearing specifically on the Gatehouse-Gannett merger, but Cicilline spokesperson Rich Luchette said it has looked at local news more broadly.
“It’s critical that we work to protect local news outlets and the jobs they support for reporters who inform the public, uncover corruption, and hold the powerful accountable,” Luchette said.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook