Unionized Free Press journalists sell out designers, copy-editors with new contract

The former home of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. Photo by Steve Neavling.
The former home of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

Unionized journalists at the Detroit Free Press sold out their designers and copy editors after approving three-year contracts that include raises and a signing bonus.

Under the agreement approved Sunday, dues-paying copy editors and designers will lose their jobs in 18 months after the newspaper outsources those positions.

But the journalists who will remain – reporters, photographers and editorial assistants – are set to receive a $700 signing bonus and raises of 1.5% during the first two years and 1% in the third year. Journalists also will retain their health care benefits without additional out-of-pocket expenses under the contract between parent company Gannett and the Newspaper Guild of Detroit Local 34022.

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Free Press employees had been operating without a contract after negotiations stalled.

Two copy editors who spoke on condition of anonymity said they feel betrayed by fellow union members.

The Newspaper Guild did not return a call for comment.

Gannett, which owns more than 100 newspapers in 34 states, is just the latest beleaguered media company to outsource copy-editing and design jobs.

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Despite the company’s financial struggles, Gannett announced Monday that it was trying to acquire the Tribune Publishing Co., another large newspaper company that owns the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.