May 24, 2018
DFM BARGAINING BULLETIN
PHILADELPHIA — DFM management came to a bargaining session empty-handed today, telling a national coalition of NewsGuild representatives that the company’s hedge fund ownership intends to keep employee pay frozen companywide to help maintain its profits.
Alden Global Capital, principal owner of Digital First Media, has earned worldwide notoriety for its ruthless staff cuts and double-digit profit margins. The ongoing damage to newsrooms across the country has triggered protests from New York to Denver to the Bay Area.
Industry analysts say the company earned nearly $160 million last year, while DFM’s own executives have said the company is solidly profitable. Investigative reporters have documented how newspaper revenues have been siphoned off to help Alden Global’s secretive principals buy luxury real estate and prop up other failing investments.
On Thursday, DFM attorney Marshall Anstandig said the profit numbers aren’t correct, but he offered no specifics. He brought nothing new to the bargaining table after more than a year of stonewalling.
“I can’t sit here and apologize for the fact that we are profitable and our owners want us to be as profitable as possible,” Anstandig said. “We have owners who are very concerned about staying in the black and quite frankly that is their prerogative.”
“There is no wage proposal at this time,” he said.
Guild representatives said the message was neither a surprise nor acceptable.
The union coalition has led an “Invest or Sell” campaign to stop Alden’s wrecking crew. But the layoffs of journalists and news workers have only continued, despite widespread revulsion in DFM communities and even within its own management ranks.
In January 2016, the Guild bargaining units collectively represented 975 workers. Now, the number is down to 525.
Local Guild leaders will convene today to begin outlining the campaign’s next steps. Some are advocating a broader effort to find a buyer willing to maintain journalism quality, and all see no alternative but to step up the public pressure on Alden.
In any case, “we will be asking our members to decide where we take this from here,” said Darren Carroll, an international NewsGuild representative and chief campaign spokesman.
The coalition represents 12 Guild bargaining units at the East Bay Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Monterey Herald, The Denver Post, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Macomb Daily and the Daily Tribune, the Pottstown Mercury, The Delaware County Times, The Trentonian, and the Norristown Times-Herald. In Denver, mailroom workers represented by the Communications Workers of America, parent union of the Guild, also are part of the coalition.
A three-year contract in 2016 included a 3 percent pay raise that year and joint wage reopeners for all 13 bargaining units in 2017 and 2018. But those talks have made little headway, despite average DFM profit margins of 17 percent – and up to 30 percent at some properties.
Today’s bargaining session was hosted by the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, represented by Executive Director Bill Ross and consultant Chris Bonanducci. They were joined by Guild representatives Tony Mulligan of Denver; Patricia Doxsey of Kingston, NY; Stevie Blanchard of Macomb, MI; Carl Hall of the Bay Area; and Candace Lund and Kelly Blaiser of St. Paul.
DFM was represented by Anstandig and senior regional human resources director Lisa Holisek, based in St. Paul.
No new bargaining dates have been set.