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OAKLAND, Calif., — Staff members of the East Bay Times and San Jose Mercury News, winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the deadly Ghost Ship Fire, will join colleagues from their sister paper, The Monterey Herald, to call for cost-of-living wage increases, improved health coverage, and reinstatement of retirement benefits by corporate owner MediaNews Group at a noon rally on Tuesday, November 19 to save local news.
Workers at each of the papers are now in contract negotiations with MediaNews Group, a.k.a. as Digital First Media, and its owner, the New York vulture hedge fund Alden Global Capital. Alden earned $41 million in profits at its Bay Area newspapers in 2017 – a 21% profit margin – but has paid its employees only one raise in this decade.
Journalists Thomas Peele, George Kelly, David DeBolt, Annie Sciacca, Karl Mondon, Robert Salonga, Thy Vo and others will gather outside Oakland offices of the Bay Area News Group on Tuesday, November 19, at noon to issue a statement condemning MediaNews Group’s refusal to provide living wages and fair benefits as it continues to slash newsrooms around the country.
MediaNews Group is one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains. It owns the Bay Area News Group, which includes The Mercury News and the East Bay Times, and also owns the 11 daily newspapers that comprise the Southern California News Group, including the Orange County Register.
Alden Global Capital, the secretive hedge fund that owns MediaNews Group, has diverted hundreds of millions from MNG into unrelated businesses, including the now-bankrupt Fred’s pharmacy chain – this was disclosed in a lawsuit filed by Solus Alternative Asset Management, formerly a minority investor in MNG. Alden also is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor for investing employees’ pension money in its own funds. This extreme stripping of assets from local newspapers resulted in a loss of more than 70 percent of news workers in just a few years.
The Mercury News Guild, East Bay Times Guild and the Monterey Guild are represented by the Pacific Media Workers Guild, a San Francisco-based labor union affiliated with The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America.