The Denver Newspaper Guild-CWA Local 37074 represents about 310 employees of The Denver Post. Departments represented include Advertising, Circulation, Editorial, Finance, IT, Pre-Publishing and Production Maintenance. All department except for editorial (newsroom) are under one contract; the newsroom has a separate contract. The separation is a remnant of the 2001 JOA between the Post and the Rocky Mountain News, where the newsrooms maintained employment directly with the papers and everybody else worked for the shared operating company, The Denver Newspaper Agency. When the Rocky closed in 2009 the agency was dissolved, resulting in two contracts with the Post.
Both contracts expired Sept. 10, 2014. The newsroom unit negotiated a short replacement agreement with few changes that runs through Feb. 27, 2016. The non-newsroom unit has been working under the extension of the old contract while negotiations continue. The company is demanding the right to outsource all finance and home delivery work, eliminating more than 50 union-covered positions. The Guild has been proposing other options concerning finance and home delivery that would retain jobs, and proposing wage increases.
For more than a century, the Post and the Rocky were tough competitors, cutting circulation and advertising rates to get the upper hand. Because of that, their profit margins were never as large as the 20 to 30 percent some other markets enjoyed. But the Guild was always able to negotiate raises, at least keeping up with inflation. Prior to Justice Department approval of the proposed JOA 2001, the Guild and the other unions at the papers negotiated good seven-year contracts that were to take effect when the joint company was created. The contracts included 3 percent annual raises. In January 2001 when approval and implementation happened, the Guild represented about 1,900 people between the two newsroom units and the business unit. By the end of that year, about 500 jobs were reduced through voluntary buyout offers. Over the next five years, staffing in both newsrooms grew while the number of employees in the business unit declined, mostly through attrition. Annual 3 percent increases continued.
By 2006 the paper’s revenue was shrinking. Staffing in both newsrooms and business units was being reduced through attrition and layoffs. By the end of 2008, the Rocky unit was down to just over 200 workers, the Post newsroom was down to 180 and the business unit was down to 600. The joint operation was losing millions and had $130 million in debt from the purchase of new presses.
On Dec. 4, 2008, E.W. Scripps announced it was putting the Rocky up for sale and if no buyer was found they would explore other options. No buyer was found. The paper printed its last edition Feb. 27, 2009. All 200 Rocky employees were displaced, but about 20 moved to the Post. At the same time, to avoid bankruptcy, the unions negotiated concessionary agreements with the Post. The concessions included furlough days, 6 to 8.5 percent pay cuts and other monetary reductions. The concessionary agreement included a vehicle to restore some of the cuts based on future profits. Over the next few months more than 100 employees in the business unit were laid off, reducing the unit to about 260. The furlough days were eliminated and half of the wage cuts were restored in 2011. The remainder of the wage cuts were restored in 2012. Wages are now at the 2009 level.