The news out of The Roanoke Times these days is not on the printed page. Much of it is coming from the newsroom, where its union (without a contract at this point) is being organized amid negotiations with new owner Lee Enterprises.
Lee owns a bunch of papers, including about 12 in Virginia, and it inherited employees who have not had a salary increase in years. Berkshire-Hathaway, owned by liberal icon Warren Buffett, reportedly has a policy of not giving raises to employees unless they are getting a promotion. So, the first item on the new union’s agenda is pay. It suggested a five percent pay increase and step raises based on the number of years workers have been at The Times.
“We have people with 15 years’ experience who are making $35,000 a year,” said a colleague who knows. “They would be eligible for huge pay raises.”
Lee’s counter, according to my buddy, was to increase mileage reimbursement from 30 cents to 31 cents. The federal government pays 57.5 cents a mile. When I was at The Times in the 1970s, mileage was 32 cents. That’s close to 40 years ago.
In addition, my friend says, “the mileage form (introduced in 2013) is so hard to fill out that I couldn’t figure it out” and needed help from a young genius in the newsroom.
Elsewhere, you might have noticed that The Times looks different today than it has previously. That is because it is being designed at one of Lee’s central locations in the Midwest (Indiana and Wisconsin). That cost Roanoke about 10 designer jobs, even though it probably should have added jobs if Lee had chosen Roanoke as a design location (as mentioned, many of Lee’s papers are in Virginia).
It is all sad, even annoying, but that’s the way the industry–my industry–is going.