“Rai$e Our Pay Now” balloons in The Sun’s newsroom. Image via the Baltimore Sun Guild’s Twitter.
“Rai$e Our Pay Now” balloons in The Sun’s newsroom. Image via the Baltimore Sun Guild’s Twitter.

As The Sun‘s newsroom heads toward negotiations with management over a new contract, staffers went on social media today to highlight one of their top priorities: pay raises.

Reporters posted pictures holding the green balloons with an upward-pointing arrow and the words “Rai$e Our Pay Now.” In a couple photos, the balloons appeared to be tied to nearly every desk in the paper’s Port Covington newsroom.

#RaiseOurPay ⬆️ My @baltimoresun colleagues are some of the most talented, driven and hardworking people I’ve ever met. Many of them haven’t been given raises in years, even as the world around them has changed and prices for services like health and medicine have skyrocketed. pic.twitter.com/unrI1nmvYk

— Hallie Miller (@MsHallieMiller) April 23, 2019

A common message among the posts on Twitter: wages have remained stagnant for years.

I’m making the same pay as I did four years ago, despite increased responsibility, a more visible beat and continually improving my skills as a journalist. @baltimoresun journalists deserve a raise from @tribpub. https://t.co/5iBFU3FWa9

— Pamela Wood (@pwoodreporter) April 23, 2019

My coworkers at @baltimoresun are SO damn good at what they do, but most haven’t seen a raise in years, even as they’re asked to do more with less. So today @baltsunguild sent a message to @tribpub to #RaiseOurPay.

Remember: “In the end what makes The Sun successful is people.” pic.twitter.com/8F1MSCH0xk

— ulysses muñoz (@y00lz) April 23, 2019

#RaiseOurPay ⬆️⬆️⬆️ Walking out of @baltimoresun today with my @news_guild colleagues to demand raises. Many of us have not received a raise in more than 6 years. With rising healthcare costs, that means a net decrease in pay over time. pic.twitter.com/YZA55rWM31

— Christina Tkacik (@ChristinaTkacik) April 23, 2019

My (very supportive) dad called today to ask if I’d seen a report naming “newspaper reporter” the third worst job in America.

I’m proud to be part of the @baltsunguild working to improve the quality of life for the hardworking, dedicated people in this profession. #raiseourpay pic.twitter.com/pQdykLh4Pv

— Talia Richman (@TaliRichman) April 23, 2019

Today, ahead of contract negotiations & after years without meaningful raises (or even cost of livinng increases) for the majority of our members, the @baltsunguild – the union that represents @baltimoresun journalists – is sending a message w/ balloons throughout the newsroom.✊ pic.twitter.com/aXsqCl8KAf

— Kevin Rector (@kevrector) April 23, 2019

Scott Dance, an environmental reporter at The Sun and chair of the paper’s bargaining unit in the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, said salaries are the group’s number one priority.

“We haven’t had an across the board raise since 2013, though our managers have gotten a couple since then. And we haven’t negotiated a new contract since 2007,” he said. “So it’s long past time that we raise these concerns and get a real raise.”

A spokesperson for Baltimore Sun Media Group did not immediately return a request for comment on today’s display.

The guild made a similar push for a salary bump in October 2016 after company-wide raises were extended by parent company Tribune Publishing, then known as tronc, but only to non-union workers.

At the time, two of the company’s flagship properties, the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, did not have unionized newsrooms. The Times organized in early 2018, and the daily was sold that summer to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. The Tribune followed suit in April 2018, and management opted to recognize the unit last May.

In a 2016 open letter to readers, the Baltimore Sun Guild said management asked for concessions that would penalize junior staffers in order to fund pay raises, and those escalations would not be extended to unionized employees in advertising or at the printing plant.

“We don’t think it’s fair in a year when the Baltimore Sun was a finalist in two Pulitzer Prize categories,” the group wrote at the time.

The union’s current contract with the Baltimore Sun Media Group expires June 30, Dance said. The two sides haven’t determined a date to begin negotiations.

Dance said staffers are also going to push to keep step increases–guaranteed salary bumps that occur early on in a journalist’s tenure at the paper–something management has asked to take away in the past.

“They’re really important to the institution, and we believe if The Sun takes them away, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot because they’d never be able to keep anyone good,” he said.

Journalists will also focus on maintaining job security within the current ranks, he added. Tribune extended buyout offers last November to employees with at least 10 years of service. Dance said only “a handful” of people at The Sun took one, including some who worked in design after their layout duties were shifted to Chicago.

Members of the Chesapeake News Guild, a bargaining unit representing smaller properties within the Baltimore Sun Media Group, such as The Capital, Carroll County Times and Towson Times, also posted pictures with the green balloons today in solidarity with their Sun colleagues.

I’m proud to be a member of @ChesapeakeGuild and proud to stand with @baltsunguild as they begin to negotiate a contract. Raise our pay! pic.twitter.com/PaW11XJOKE

— Cody Boteler (@codyboteler) April 23, 2019

Before last year, some @ChesapeakeGuild members hadn’t gotten raises in 10 years. Some members were denied raises this year, even after the guild waived its right to bargain.

This isn’t about greed. This is about being able to do what we love and not sacrifice quality of life. pic.twitter.com/QVJBbNyq40

— Danielle Ohl (@DTOhl) April 23, 2019

Having organized in November, the Chesapeake News Guild papers are also in the midst of negotiations with the Baltimore Sun Media Group. Following a campaign that included journalists calling for a living wage, Tribune voluntarily recognized the union in December.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Chesapeake News Guild as the Capital News Guild. Baltimore Fishbowl regrets the error.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...