Chicago Sun-Times union blasts new owner
Four months into contract negotiations, Sun-Times union members are lashing out on Twitter at their new owners, Chicago Public Media, for trying to "strip" workers' rights "we've had for decades.
- Instead it's opening up CPM to criticism of "union-busting" tactics that could irk the nonprofit's traditionally progressive donor base just as it starts asking newspaper readers to donate and become members.
- A strike in both newsrooms could wipe out half the city's reporting.
What they're saying: "Chicago Sun-Times Media, a separate nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation affiliated with Chicago Public Media, remains committed to negotiating a fair contract with the News Guild and reaching a positive outcome for both parties," CPM spokesperson Betsy Berger tells Axios.
Context: The Sun-Times and WBEZ publish each other's articles and share physical newsrooms.
- But the CST newsroom is represented by the Chicago Newspaper Guild, while the radio station staff is represented by SAG-AFTRA, creating an unusual situation.
The issues: The newspaper union's tweets call CPM proposals "draconian" and decry their call to eliminate overtime pay.
- The biggest sticking point: CPM's proposed elimination of the right to stage sympathy strikes, meaning management could use Sun-Times reporting to replace WBEZ reporting in the event of a radio station strike.
The intrigue: Although WBEZ's union contract doesn't allow sympathy strikes, a senior WBEZ reporter tells Axios they would refuse to "cross picket lines" if the Sun-Times strikes.
- Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg echoed that sentiment.
By the numbers: According to CPM's tax returns filed in 2019, the company paid the DC-based Jones Day law firm, which it still uses to negotiate union contracts, $205,647.
What's next: Sun-Times negotiations with CPM are set to continue this week.
- A Sun-Times guild representative declined to speculate on a timeline or potential trigger for a strike.
(Full disclosure: Monica was a SAG-AFTRA union leader at WBEZ. Justin worked in management at Chicago Public Media when WBEZ's union was starting.)
More Chicago stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.