Newspaper giant Gannett’s sudden job, pension, and pay cuts outrage NewsGuild

Sudden job, pension, and pay cuts announced by Gannett top brass in a seven-minute Zoom call with local editors—and with little to no notice to their staffers, unionized or not—have outraged the NewsGuild. It vows to fight back by organizing even more of the chain’s newsrooms.

“It was a seven-minute ‘town hall’ which a lot of reporters missed” because they didn’t get the e-mail announcing it, one Gannett NewsGuild unit chair said on Oct. 12, the day of the call. “There was the suspension of the (company’s) 401(k) match, voluntary buyouts, a five-day unpaid furlough during the holidays, and a hiring freeze.”

The voluntary severance isn’t available as a lump sum, but “paid in installments according to the company’s payroll schedule, e.g., a biweekly check. Plus taxes are taken out, too,” tweeted Arizona Republic staffer Hart Sastrowardoyo.

The cuts won’t work, said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss, in a statement posted on TNG’s website the same afternoon.

“Gannett cannot cut its way out of financial mismanagement. It must invest in journalists if it has any chance to grow. Every American, every community, and our democracy depend on it,” he stated.

Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, justified the moves—all of which hit non-union newsrooms hard—due to red ink from competition from the internet, which has, for more than a decade, devastated newspapers’ ad revenue.

As a result, since 2005, 51% of local journalists’ positions nationally have disappeared, and an average of 200 papers a year have closed. Others now limit publication. Gannett’s papers and others have lost $24 billion in ad revenue to web platforms, virtually drying it up.

Publishers’ responses have been to cut-cut-cut newsrooms to the bone, leaving local “news deserts,” while still paying themselves huge sums, Schleuss notes.


The average Gannett staffer, including those who are NewsGuild members, earns $48,419 yearly, below the U.S. median wage. Gannett CEO Mike Reed earned $7.74 million last year, a graphic on the union’s website shows.

“Gannett only cares about cutting costs by bleeding newsrooms dry,” Schleuss said in his statement posted after the town hall. “Gannett doesn’t care about journalists, the local news our communities depend on, nor the survival of one of the most important pillars of our democracy.

“The only way to fight back is to build a strong union in every newsroom in North America. Many of these cuts will not immediately impact newly unionized newsrooms, and Gannett has a legal obligation to bargain over any changes with its workers,” he added.

But past cuts have seen “hundreds of Gannett journalists organizing across the country to force Gannett to put people over profits. Journalists hold companies—Gannett included—to account every single day.”

Schleuss declared Gannett should stop cost-cutting, invest in newsrooms, pay its workers “enough to thrive in the communities they cover, eliminate its extravagant executive pay, fire its anti-journalist lawyers and immediately suspend its stock buyback program.”

Tweeted responses to Gannett’s cuts, garnered from the union’s website, expressed outrage and opposition, but also reinforced Schleuss’s point about the importance of being unionized. The Guild, a CWA sector, represents workers at so many Gannett papers they have their own caucus within the union.

“This is the clearest endorsement yet of the importance of unions,” tweeted Rafael Carranza of the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic. “Mike Reed acknowledged these changes won’t impact newsrooms like mine @gannett who are still bargaining. We’re approaching the 3rd anniv. of when we voted to establish the @azrepublicguild but still no contract.”

“Thank GOD for @azrepublicguild,” tweeted fellow Republic staffer Joseph Jaafari. “Gannett is announcing they are cutting all 401k’s matching, and requiring people to take 5 days off. They’re also offering unpaid leave, a salary reduction with time reduction, and voluntary severance. This is… awful.”

“Y’all I am so grateful for the @AustinNewsGuild,” tweeted Sarah Radinasch of the Guild-represented Austin American-Statesman staff. “Gannett just announced they are cutting 401k matches and forcing furloughs over the holidays and my union colleagues are protected by status quo. My heart hurts for all the journalists and families who will suffer because of this.”



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.