An open letter to #RaiseTheSun
Dear Baltimore Sun readers,
This spring, the parent company of The Sun cited our powerful, Pulitzer-recognized journalism of the last year in announcing a raise for journalists throughout the company of 2.5 percent of their annual salaries. The only catch? The gesture was not extended to unionized employees — including the vast majority of the journalists in the Sun newsroom.
While tronc and our possible future owner, Gannett, debate the millions of dollars that could change hands in a sale of The Sun and its sister papers, the reporters, photographers, community coordinators and copy editors who produce the Sun are asking for our share.
We’re appealing to you to help us get the word out by sharing our concerns with your followers on social media and expressing your support for us. Most of the reporters and photographers who produce the content that informs the region have not received a raise in years.
Justin Dearborn, CEO of our corporate parent, tronc, announced in May that he was handing out raises to newsroom employees throughout the company to reward them for the quality journalism they produce. The work, he noted, was worthy of Pulitzer recognition, and merited pay increases — but only to non-union journalists. The company said we’d need to negotiate the raises that were given unconditionally at other newspapers in our chain (most of which are not unionized) and even to our managers at the Sun.
After we asked for our own share, the company made us an offer that would require deep concessions — ones that would do away with salary standards we have spent years fighting for and that would penalize the most junior and lowest-paid members of our staff. Even if we made those concessions, the raises wouldn’t go to everyone in the union. Even if we made those concessions, the company would refuse to extend the raises to our union colleagues outside the newsroom, in the Sun’s advertising department and at its printing facility.
We don’t think it’s fair in a year when the Baltimore Sun was a finalist in two Pulitzer Prize categories.
We don’t think it’s fair when we — like everyone in our business these days — are working harder than ever to cover and serve our community with fewer resources.
We don’t think it’s fair that some of those being denied raises put their personal safety at risk to cover the uprising following the death of Freddie Gray.
A contract extension we signed with the company in February, only months before the raises were announced, guarantees three more years without raises. By 2019, most of us will have received a raise just once in nine years while our take-home pay is being diminished by escalating medical costs.
We know that the issue isn’t that the company can’t afford to give us raises, since everyone else just got them. No, tronc is denying Sun reporters raises because its leaders want to weaken the union and cheapen our contract.
We know our company and our industry are facing difficult times, but if executive golden parachutes are on the table, what amounts to a cost-of-living adjustment for a small number should be, too. The sum that would be required to give all Sun Guild members a 2.5 percent raise is relatively meager — less than $200,000, compared with the larger sums that were required for raises across the rest of the tronc chain.
As a last resort, we’re asking you to support our journalism and turning to you, in the hopes that you will share our concerns by writing a blog post, sharing this on Facebook or putting out a tweet with the hashtag #RaiseTheSun.
Perhaps more importantly, we urge you to support our work by subscribing to The Baltimore Sun. We can’t do this without you.
If you have questions or want to share your support, send an e-mail to BaltSunGuild@gmail.com.
The newsroom members of the Baltimore Sun unit
of the Washington/Baltimore News Guild
Karl Merton Ferron
Mary Carole McCauley
Barbara Haddock Taylor
John-John Williams IV