Social media is the new picket line, at least in the media world: reporters, editors, and other workers at the San Francisco Chronicle are using Twitter and Facebook to stage a protest against management’s refusal to agree to a new contract for newspaper employees, as well as a related move by the newspaper’s management that will increase their healthcare costs.
Staffers participating in the protest have changed their social media profile pictures to a red box to call attention to the protest, using social media to drum up support.
The protest comes as owner Hearst Corp. prepares to introduce an online paywall for the newspaper’s “premium” Web content, amid drawn-out negotiations with management by employees for a new contract. Protest organizers say the timing is intended to highlight the increasingly onerous demands on editorial staff, who are being asked to increase their productivity while their benefits are slashed.
A message posted on Facebook by the protest organizers read, in part: “We've done everything Hearst demanded: sacrificing pay raises, giving up seniority, losing vacation time and holidays, even working through what used to be our paid lunch hour. For years, we've been working twice as hard with a smaller staff -- doing everything needed to keep this paper afloat, relevant and great. And this is how the highly profitable Hearst Corporation pays us back."
As newspaper advertising revenues continue to decline and publishers look to cut costs to maintain profitability, protracted, acrimonious contract negotiations now seem to be the norm at newspapers. Last year, The York Times Co. execs were locked in contentious negotiations with NYT newsroom staff for months before an agreement was hammered out in November.
It’s also increasingly common for newspaper employees to take their case directly to the public.
In January a group called Save Philadelphia Newspapers was formed to rally public support for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, after the papers’ new owners threatened to “liquidate” if they didn’t win concessions from employees in new contract negotiations. They subsequently struck a deal, including a 2.5% pay cut for Newspaper Guild employees and a promise of no layoffs for at least one year.