Sun-Times May Re-Hire Four Photographers; Others Get $2K Payment

Nov 25, 2013
The June 2013 cover of News Photographer magazine featured Mike Tharp's news story about how the Sun-Times wiped out its 28-person photography department. Cover photograph by Mark Hertzberg
The June 2013 cover of News Photographer magazine featured Mike Tharp's news story about how the Sun-Times wiped out its 28-person photography department. Cover photograph by Mark Hertzberg

By Donald R. Winslow

CHICAGO, IL (November 25, 2013) – A tentative contract settlement between Sun-Times Media and the union representing newsroom employees could lead to the rehiring of four of the 28 photographers who were laid off in May, and a one-time $2,000 lump sum payment to the photographers who are not re-hired.

An eMail this morning from the Chicago Newspaper Guild informed members that various bargaining units will hold ratification meetings the week of December 2.

In the new agreement, Sun Times Media is required to "make available" four photographers' positions and "select from bargaining units of its choice to return to work." In other words, the positions may be at one or more of the Sun Times Media properties, not necessarily all at the Sun-Times flagship newspaper.

But the positions are also contingent on the photographers agreeing to the Guild dropping an unfair labor relations charge with the National Labor Relations Board. 

If the charge is dropped, the photographers who do not return to work for Sun Times Media will receive a lump sum payment of $2,000 if they agree to waive all future legal claims.

It's not clear how the four photographers will be picked for re-hiring, and whether it might be based on seniority, or if Sun Times Media has a free hand in picking any four. 

"There was a memorandum of understanding in 2009 where the union gave up any seniority rights in the layoff process," photojournalist Rob Hart told News Photogarpher magazine today. "So I don't know if that means the 28 who were laid off are ranked by seniority or not."

Hart said that he doubted that he'd be one of the photographers considered for re-hiring. 

"Two thousand dollars isn't much, but for people with kids at least it's something to put toward college or something," he said today.

The new three-year contract would be in effect until December 2016 and it includes two unpaid furlough weeks, enhanced severance,  and a two percent pay increase in July 2016. The agreement covers 130 reporters, copy editors and other editorial staff at the Sun-Times, Pioneer Press, Post-Tribune in Merrillville, IN, Lake County News-Sun, and Joliet Herald-News.