Unionized news staff at Sun-Times approves 3-year labor deal

The agreement between Chicago Public Media, the paper’s owner, and the Chicago News Guild provides for raises and improvements in company benefits.

SHARE Unionized news staff at Sun-Times approves 3-year labor deal
Stacks of The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper are seen in this photo, Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 29, 2021.

Sun-Times employees represented by the Chicago News Guild have approved a three-year contract with Chicago Public Media.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Unionized news staffers at the Chicago Sun-Times have approved a three-year labor agreement that provides annual raises and improves some company benefits.

The contract with Chicago Public Media, the nonprofit owner of the Sun-Times, covers 75 employees involved in editorial content of the website and newspaper. Members of the Chicago News Guild ratified the tentative agreement 65-1 in online voting that was announced late Tuesday.

The employees will get annual raises of 4%, 3% and 2.5%, according to summaries from the union and the company. They also will each get a one-time $1,000 ratification bonus.

For the first time, the company will match a portion of workers’ contributions to a 401(k) retirement account. The staff has not had company retirement contributions since the bankruptcy of former owners in 2009 ended a traditional pension plan.

The 401(k) match will be 2% for the first two years, going to 3% in the third year. The agreement succeeds a contract that expired last August.

“We’re confident that the agreement is a good deal for the newsroom that will set us up for long-term success and help us deeply serve our community with exemplary journalism,” Sun-Times executive editor Jennifer Kho and general counsel Jon Rosenblatt said in an email to employees.

Nader Issa, co-chair of the Sun-Times Guild, said in a statement: “The past 10 months of negotiations have been a rocky road, but our union of determined and value-driven journalists fought hard for this contract and held out for what we knew we deserved. Our members have been through tough times the past 15 years, but we pushed for this deal because we care about serving our communities, and we can only do that with a secure future for the workers in this paper and newsroom.”

Issa, who covers education, said the contract brings the minimum salary for reporters to $60,000 a year. Reporters can earn at least $70,000 by meeting defined performance standards, he said.

The contract sets out rules for staff collaboration with WBEZ — the public radio station also owned by Chicago Public Media — and requires the employer to maintain at least 60 positions covered by the union.

Union leaders said there were tensions during negotiations over a company insistence to tie higher salaries to the elimination of overtime pay. In the end, the company withdrew the proposal and overtime pay remains.

Like all legacy media outlets, the Sun-Times has suffered from declines in revenue from circulation and advertising. But the paper’s merger in 2022 with Chicago Public Media brought foundation support that has stabilized its finances.

The labor situation contrasts with that of editorial workers at the Chicago Tribune. They also belong to the Chicago News Guild but have been unable to get a first contract from the paper’s owner, Alden Global Capital.

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