By COLIN STAUB
Journalists at the daily newspaper in Longview, Washington, secured a 2% wage increase in their first union contract with Lee Enterprises.
The one-year contract was unanimously approved on March 24 by the Longview Newsguild, which represents eight journalists at The Daily News. It came after several months of bargaining that reached a standstill when the discussion turned to wage increases.
In early 2022, the union was proposing a 5% raise, while management offered a 0.8% increase in the base pay and no across-the-board increase.
In the end, the wage negotiations resulted in a 2% raise for everyone, said Katie Fairbanks, a reporter at the newspaper and member of the bargaining team.
The contract increases bereavement leave to four days, up from three. It establishes a severance policy providing one week of pay for each year at the newspaper, with a minimum of four weeks pay and a maximum of 26. It includes a layoff policy that takes seniority into account, and it requires the employer to have clear cause before terminating a worker.
It also includes “employee integrity” language that gives reporters the right to withhold their bylines if they’re uncomfortable with the way a story has been edited. A safety clause allows reporters to leave or refuse an assignment if they feel it’s too unsafe.
Since it’s only a one-year contract, bargaining is set to begin again in a few months.
The Longview Newsguild was named “Union of the Year” by the Southwest Washington Central Labor Council in February. Fairbanks said the union also drew support from local residents.
“Longview obviously is a very strong union town and has a lot of union history, so it was nice to be able to officially join that and have the community back us on that,” she said.
The contract is a significant milestone for the union, particularly in light of the very different result at the nearby Columbian newspaper in Vancouver. Reporters there unionized in 2019, but after two years of “negotiations” in which the company refused to agree to any union proposal and laid off members of the bargaining team, the union withdrew out of recognition that most remaining news room workers no longer wanted to be union-represented.