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Daily Hampshire Gazette union 'works to rule' to protest outsourcing proposals

Union members and supporters rally at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts, in summer 2021.
Karen Brown
Union members and supporters rally at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts, in summer 2021.

Updated at 2:41 p.m.

Union members at the Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper in Northampton, Massachusetts, are "working to rule" to protest the potential outsourcing of jobs. 

For reporters, "work to rule" means they won't take calls, do interviews or any other work outside of contracted hours.

Pioneer Valley NewsGuild representative Bera Dunau, who reports primarily on the hilltowns, said sources may have to wait for responses and stories may take longer, including during this election season. He said reporters would make exceptions for urgent breaking news.

"All these changes may result in a thinner paper. We do find that regrettable if that happens because fundamentally we do want to put out the best product possible," Dunau said. "But at the end of the day, we've been doing extra work in other ways for years to paper over the fact that we've been having thinner and thinner staff."

Dunau said the tactic is meant to push back against proposals by the Newspapers of New England, which owns the Gazette, that allow for possible outsourcing of graphics and copying editing jobs. 

He said the union is still critical of the outsourcing of the newspaper's printing operations. The on-site printing press, which had been in operation for more than 200 years, closed in 2020, resulting in 29 layoffs.

In an email, publisher Shawn Palmer wrote, "I know the NewsGuild's statements in recent days have caused unnecessary concern among some of our readers. We have no plans to eliminate any positions. We have, in fact, hired several employees in the last few months."

The next negotiating meeting is November 4.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.