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To our readers: A joint statement from the Sun-Times and Sun-Times Guild

We’ve inked a three-year extension of the Guild’s collective bargaining agreement. Our aim, together, is to bring you the best journalism in Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times and Sun-Times Guild logos.

After eight months at the bargaining table, the Chicago Sun-Times and the union representing its journalists have agreed to a three-year extension of the newsroom’s collective bargaining agreement. The contract was ratified unanimously by Sun-Times Guild members in a two-day vote last week.

The contract improves pay across all job categories, adds initiatives targeting a more diverse and equitable newsroom, opens a path to improved health care, allows paid professional development days for every Guild member and establishes that some employees in the newsroom’s analytics department will be represented by the union.

By Sept. 1, 2021, every Sun-Times Guild member will receive a cumulative 5.6% pay increase, amounting to an average raise of $3,375. The raise schedule will be: 1% retroactive to Sept. 1, 2019; 2% effective this month; another 2% effective September 2020, and 1.5% effective September 2021. By fall 2021, a reporter with five or more years of industry experience will be earning a minimum annual salary of $69,783. This is a vast improvement for Sun-Times journalists, who have seen only a single, 2% raise in the past decade.

“This agreement represents a step forward for the Sun-Times and the hard-working journalists who make our newspaper a powerful voice in this city,” said Nader Issa, co-chair of the Sun-Times Guild. “We’re optimistic about what lies ahead for the paper, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work with Sun-Times management to build a bright and sustainable future. We’re especially proud of our provisions that strengthen the way we approach recruiting, hiring, and retaining women and journalists of color.”

Under the agreement, the Sun-Times is becoming the first news organization in the Chicago area — and perhaps in the country — to disclose in real time on its website the racial and gender breakdown of every newsroom department. That information can be found here.

The Sun-Times and Guild also worked together on a plan that will ensure that at least one woman or member of a traditionally underrepresented group, including black, Latino, Asian American, Native and LGBTQ journalists, is interviewed for newsroom job openings. The Sun-Times and Guild also are creating a joint committee to identify and recruit qualified journalists of underrepresented groups.

“I’m glad we were able to work with the Guild to build a framework for future growth of the Sun-Times, especially in light of the critical role that regional newspapers have played — and must continue to play — in informing citizens and holding power accountable,” Editor-in-Chief Chris Fusco said. “I’m particularly grateful to our newspaper’s ownership for recognizing the quality journalists we have in our newsroom and the quality journalism they produce. The Sun-Times is by no means immune to newspaper industry headwinds, but this agreement is a vote of confidence that we can overcome them together for the good of our city and region.”

Other contract highlights include:

• On health care, the agreement offers a path for a new companywide plan that could bring members additional savings and better coverage. The Sun-Times Guild, which has been enrolled in a separate insurance plan than the one the company offers the rest of its employees, will vote on a permanent health care decision by the end of May.

• The agreement extends previous protections that bar the company from outsourcing work in order to lay off Guild members. Additionally, better severance packages will now be possible for the Sun-Times’ longest-serving journalists in the event of layoffs.

• The parties agreed to a 50/50 split of the Sun-Times’ assistant metro editor positions and established that its new analytics department will include Guild members as the newsroom grows into the 21st century.

“As is the case in any negotiation, neither side got everything it sought,” said Bob Mazzoni, co-chair of the Sun-Times Guild. “But a sense of good faith, cooperation and compromise got us through some of the more troublesome issues. We look forward to working with this management for the duration of this contract and beyond.”

The union belongs to the Chicago News Guild, a local of The News Guild-Communication Workers of America.

Members of the Chicago Sun-Times Guild bargaining committee are: Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chicago News Guild; Bob Mazzoni, Co-Chair and sports copy editor; Nader Issa, Co-Chair and education reporter; Lauren FitzPatrick, Watchdogs reporter; Rachel Hinton, Cook County reporter; Tom Schuba, marijuana reporter. The company negotiating team was led by Labor Relations VP Ted Rilea, attorney Jon Rosenblatt and Editor-in-Chief Chris Fusco.