DFM wants the right to outsource jobs for a one-time increase

Angered by delays, Guild leaders at 12 Digital First Media Newspapers joined together last week to demand an immediate 3 percent pay increase be granted to 1,000 union workers nationwide.

In response, DFM management rejected that request — unless each of the unions would agree to allow the company to outsource any or all jobs on two weeks’ notice, and allow the company to lay off employees without regard to seniority.

So that’s a one-time raise that might cost you your job.

The Guild’s pay proposal — made on behalf of all Guild-covered employees at DFM newspapers — came on the heels of a February 9 announcement at the DFM-owned Los Angeles Newspaper Group of a 3 percent pay increase for non-union workers. In other words, everyone got a raise except the six LANG employees who are union members.

That announcement quickly was followed by a succession of similar raises for non-union workers at DFM newspapers in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Northern California and elsewhere.

It’s great news for non-union workers, who have none of the protections that union workers have negotiated. As a result, non-union workers have endured as much or more of DFM’s indiscriminate cost-cutting as their union brothers and sisters.

For union workers, who’ve made painful concessions over the last several years to help the company, the demand for more concessions in exchange for that one-time pay increase is a slap in the face — one that underscores the crucial need for our historic coordinated campaign, now barely two months old.

Our campaign spans the country, connecting Guild workers from Kingston, NY, to the San Francisco Bay Area in common cause. Twelve Guild contracts now are expired at DFM. Some negotiations have been delayed while we waited — at the company’s request — for DFM’s second quarter financial results to be calculated. Those results, according to DFM management, would determine whether raises would be proposed.

When the news about DFM’s decision to grant raises finally arrived, Guild leaders had to find out second hand from the LANG announcement.

More job cuts; Oakland Tribune gone

While green-lighting that one-time pay increase, Alden Global Capital, the New York hedge fund that owns Digital First Media, continues to slash jobs. There’ve been recent announcements of layoffs in Philadelphia, buyouts in St. Paul, and, of course, Tuesday’s startling announcement that as many as 40 positions would be cut in San Jose and Bay Area News Group-East Bay — about 20 percent of the roughly 200 newsroom positions.

In the name of “rebranding” and “reader demand,” the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times will lose their mastheads and be combined into a new “East Bay Times.” Beginning April 5, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Mateo County Times will become a merged “Mercury News.”

Alden, a so-called vulture fund specializing in “distressed” assets, generates high rates of return off its investment in DFM by laying off employees, denying them raises for eight to 10 years, and plundering newspaper assets, including real estate.

After trying and failing to sell Digital First Media last year, Alden appears poised to double-down on newspapers, using company profits to make a bid on the Orange County Register in Southern California.