Indy News Guild Protest Not Welcomed at SPJ Convention

By: Joe Strupp Just days after approving a new two-year contract with The Indianapolis Star -- which includes a 10% salary cut and two-year wage freeze -- the Indianapolis News Guild wanted to protest the pay cut at today's Society of Professional Journalists convention.

But SPJ wanted no part of it.

After Guild leaders asked for the right to pass out fliers protesting parent company Gannett's pay cut deal at today's SPJ sessions in Indianapolis, the SPJ leadership declined.

"We did not want to create the perception that we are taking sides," said SPJ President David Aeikens. "We sympathize and empathize. A lot of us have been where the Indianapolis people are. But we are trying not to get too involved."

After rejecting a previous contract offer in June that included a 12% pay cut, the Indianapolis Guild unit approved the more recent proposal on Monday. In a memo to members, Guild President Tom Spalding urged them to attend today's SPJ events and pass out fliers that declare: "GANNETT: PROFITS OVER PEOPLE," and "110% EFFORT, 90% PAY."

In an e-mail to Interim SPJ Co-Executive Director Chris Vachon on Thursday, Spalding noted the guild wanted to use the SPJ event to gain attention because it is expected to have some 600 journalists from around the country, as well as an appearance by Virgil Smith, vice president/talent management, for Gannett.

"Chris, this is no longer a labor issue. The contract was voted in on Tuesday, we've accepted it, and it will be signed this coming Monday.
However, we are trying to show Gannett that it might have been able to force this bad contract on us, with its 10% pay cut, but all our members are angry about it -- including the journalists who are appearing as speakers at your convention this weekend on behalf of the Indianapolis Star," Spalding's e-mail to Vachon stated, in part.

"We are jazzed up about journalism too and want to let everyone know in a positive way the sacrifice made by Guild members. The flyers convey our spirit and resolve -- one of the flyers, in fact, lists our
numerous winners of coveted journalism prizes -- including SPJ's! --
and there's no better audience than the 600 national and international
journalists in town this weekend for your convention to get our points

Vachon was unavailable for comment. But Aeikens said Friday that SPJ would not seek to stop any guild members from distributing fliers during the convention, which is being held at The Westin in downtown Indianapolis.

"We don't want to raise a fuss," he said. "He can stop there and hand out fliers if he wants. I don't know that we have gotten requests like this before. We just don't want to give the perception we are taking sides."


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