Fired Chicago Sun-Times Photographers Picket Newspaper


Chicago Sun-Times photographers, who lost their jobs in a mass layoff last week, are not going quietly into oblivion.  Most of the 30 lensfolk who got canned, plus dozens of supporters, picketed outside the newspaper building on Thursday. And leaders of the union that represents most of the photogs say there’s more to come.

“We were totally stunned by this, and we’re out here trying to get the community behind us, and so far we’ve had a lot of success.” said Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chicago Newspaper Guild.

Sun Times executives have said the layoffs are part of a general switch from print to online content, a transition that includes turning editorial employees into general-purpose content harvesters armed with iPhones and can-do attitudes. The newspaper’s front page Thursday offered a taste of the fruits of the new strategy, with the lead story written, photographed and videoed by the same newly designated “multimedia reporter.”

Favorite sign at the protest: “Damn It, Jim! I’m a Reporter, Not a Photographer!”


Also in the magical world of Sun Times management: Nobody got fired! A subscriber who canceled his subscription based on the layoffs received an acknowledgement that included this gem of double-speak: “Your comments regarding the photographers contracts being changed to freelance from salaried was noted on your account and passed to the management.”

(via NBC Chicago)

Image credits: Video and still frames by NBC Chicago

  • chubbs

    Think they’ll send out a reporter to cover this on an iPhone?

  • KewlDewd

    Ok, so yes, it’s sad that all the photographers were laid off. And yes, it may end up being a stupid decision on the part of the paper. But someone explain to me how the Sun Times shouldn’t be able to employ or not employ whomever they want. If they don’t want a team of photographers on staff (talented as they may be), why should they keep them around? Every employment agreement I’ve signed has given the employer the right to terminate employment at any time for any reason (within the law.)

    By the way, I was laid off from a staff photography job last July. I was the only photog on the payroll. I didn’t picket. I collected my severance pay and went on my way. I have been called back several times for freelance gigs since then.

  • CoolDude

    Then what was the point in laying you off if you’re going to freelance at a lower rate? If you don’t mind being taken for a fool thats up to you but others out there would rather not be

  • KewlDewd

    What? Is that a serious question? You think I laid myself off so I could freelance at a lower rate? THEY laid me off because they felt like it wasn’t a full time job anymore and now they offer me contract work on a project by project basis. And how do you know what I’m paid? As a matter of fact, if you look at it by project or per hour I get more than I was making before. Only I’m working nowhere near 40 hours a week for them.

    So are you calling me a fool for choosing a smaller amount of paid work versus NO paid work? Are you sure I’m the fool here?

  • Roman

    It is plain stupidity to picket about that. This is a company. They have a right to hire and fire whoever they want. If that was bad decision they will loose money. If it was good decision they will save money. Simple. Stop crying and find new job or create your own business.

  • MarvinB7

    Unions… So many times people prodded me about joining the union. I just stared at them like they were from outer space. I work, not the union people, to earn what I make. Unions had their place, and now all they do is unnaturally inflate costs, thus prices, thus all the export we used to make is now imported to us because everyone is going offshore. Stop whining and go work. /rant

  • z

    where is a link or a photo of the new front page?

  • Genkakuzai

    You being the only photographer on the payroll being the key in this case. There’s a huge difference between firing a single person and firing 30 people.

  • Genkakuzai

    You are aware that the vast majority of “union people” work the same way, and most likely the same job, you do right? Basically the only country where lobbyists have convinced people that unions are pointless is the US of freedomz. In Europe we still have a very productive use for unions. The only reason people are going offshore is because they CAN. The massive amounts of tax loopholes are what you should thank for that, rather than whining at the unions for keeping your rights intact. Do you honestly think that corporations will stick to the deals unions struck for WORKERS out of good will?

  • theresa

    shame on the sun times ,and hiring free lance photographers on top of it ! i think they will not have to pay the free lance for health care or anything else !! what happened to the union for protection ?????

  • Roman

    What is that difference? I bet for every single person from these 30 it is as big of a deal as for the 1 that got fired.

  • Genkakuzai

    What is the difference between 1k and 30k? Quite a lot I’d say. Laying off 30 people is about 30 times as bad as laying of a single person. I honestly don’t get the hatred for unions in the U.S. I guess the lobbyists over there have done a tremendous job convincing workers that unions are working for anyone other than the actual workers.

  • Woody ONeal

    Certainly, Obamacare factored into the decision to terminate these folks. I own a small business and payroll is one thing, but providing benefits is another issue that is increasingly harder to justify.

  • Roman

    Really? Think. What is the difference if you got fire, or you and 29 other people? Are you getting fired 30times?
    The unions and the laws “protecting” employees is a big topic and require understanding the basic of economics. At the end the unions and workers demanding certain right, ships the jobs to Asia.

  • Johnny Ranger McCoy

    I think this represents a far larger problem, as the same things have been happening in the music, book, photography, and journalism industries; all of which stem from the loss of property rights and the ability to exercise one’s property rights. Photographers should do something like what the musicians are doing:

    “For the first time in music industry history, over 25,000 songwriters and composers from nearly fifty countries throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Africa have joined together to form a new, wholly independent advocacy Network for music creators. Its immediate goal will be the championing of a set of Fair Trade Music Principles designed to ensure transparency, fair compensation, and autonomy for music creators in an increasingly complex and non-transparent music business landscape.

    The Fair Trade Music Principles are as follows:

    1. FAIR COMPENSATION — Music business models must be built on principles of fair and sustainable compensation for music creators.

    2. TRANSPARENCY–International standards must be developed and adopted that ensure efficient and transparent management of rights and revenues derived from the use of our works. These standards must apply to all entities that license such rights, and which collect and/or distribute such revenues.

    3. RECAPTURE OF OUR RIGHTS–Music Creators must have the ability to recapture the rights to their works in a time frame no greater than 35 years, as is currently available to songwriters, composers and artists in the United States. The effect of recapture of rights must apply globally.

    4. INDEPENDENT MUSIC CREATOR ORGANIZATIONS–Music Creators must have their own independent entities that advocate for, educate and provide knowledgeable support for members of their community, including aspiring songwriters, composers and artists. Music Creators speak for themselves, not through those with interests in conflict with them.

    5. FREEDOM OF SPEECH–Music Creators must be free to speak, write and communicate without fear of censorship, retaliation or repression in a manner consistent with basic human rights and constitutional principles.”

    Best, :)

  • Rabi Abonour

    The difference is that they could have made cuts across the company, but instead they decided photo was expendable. Of course they had a right to do it as a business. But as a journalistic organization it was an irresponsible move.

    That’s part of the problem here: Yes, newspapers are businesses, but they are (or should be) more than that. Journalism is too important to be held hostage by economic whims.

  • Ross

    Do you have a Pullitzer?

  • Roman

    You can’t force it to be this or that. You can only buy their “product” or not. If these photogs were so precious, they will get new job. Market is alive creature. It evolves and changes nonstop. There were amazing journalistic photos in the history but did market ever required it? I don’t know but we will soon find out.
    Also do they really need equipment for 15k to photograph some local news that end-up on website or as small print anyway. Especially when there are thousands “freelancers” that will do same or better job for pennies. Or will cover the event and send pictures just for a photo-credit. It is sad, but it is reality.

  • Rabi Abonour

    You’re still missing the point: journalism is more than business. The Founding Fathers did not put freedom of the press in the First Amendment so that people could start newspapers to make money, but because they understood the importance of journalism. Firing an entire photo staff is an example of putting money before journalism.

  • Roman

    Well, many people misunderstand or just don’t know the constitution. This issue doesn’t have anything to do with rights. If the journalism is so important to these photogs they can still take pictures for free.

  • Roman

    ^two folks don’t understand obamacare. Yet.

  • KewlDewd

    Regardless of the importance the founding fathers may have put on journalism, it doesn’t change the fact that all of these papers, tv news, radio shows are businesses first and foremost. To think otherwise is incredibly naive.

  • KewlDewd

    No, I don’t. What does that have to do with anything?

  • KewlDewd

    Make cuts across the company to save a department they no longer want? That makes tons of sense.

    “But as a journalistic organization it was an irresponsible move.”

    Maybe it was. What do you think should be done about it? Should they be forced to hire them all back, or should they be left to deal with the ramifications of their decision? If it works they grow as a business. If it doesn’t, they fail. It’s common sense and amazes me that some people don’t understand that.

  • Rabi Abonour

    I’m not defending the strike. I don’t expect the paper to hire the photographers back. But I refuse to excuse the layoffs in the name of capitalism.

  • Rabi Abonour

    I might be naive, but you’re jaded. I fully understand the realities of the news BUSINESS. But I also believe that, once a news organization starts making major sacrifices to quality in the name of money, it loses its reason to exist.

  • Angus

    yep, i agree. photographers seem to think their job is somehow more precious than others.. they are probably crying into their *insert smartphone brand* that was made in china by non-american workers… sure its terrible when industries and jobs are disrupted by new technologies, but its been going on since the dawn of industrialization.. just ask the blacksmith’s how its going.. ;)

  • KewlDewd

    That’s exactly what I’m arguing. If they make a bad decision, let them pay the consequences. But you’re also saying that they should make cuts in departments they want, so they can save a department they don’t want. Ridiculous.

  • KewlDewd

    Then it sounds like you might be living int he wrong country. Do you think the government should be able to tell a company who/when/how to hire and fire? I’m very much against that personally.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    I think it was health care costs that contributed to this. If they’re paying $500 per month in healthcare for these employees then they’ve just saved themselves $180,000 a year – even if they end up paying them the same via freelancing.

  • chphotovideo

    Good for you for trying to be glass is half full kinda person.
    Yah, I dont have as much work. I don’t have as much of a paycheck either! wait, I don’t have as much work and make less money in the end.. woohoo??

  • SitsUnderWaterfalls

    Providing “benefits” is basic human decency. It is sad that we live in a country where citizens are okay with the fact that you can do no work and get Medicaid, but if you work hard at your job you don’t deserve insurance.

  • Woody ONeal

    Human decency or not, the real travesty is that Obamacare is forcing employers into this decision. As an employer, I am very versed in the law and the chilling effect it WILL have on all aspects of providing jobs. Instead of picketing the newspaper, the real story is what is happening today, all over our land, and the draconian law that will be sweeping it over the next 18 months.

  • Woody ONeal

    more like 1,200 bucks a month. That’s the average premium for family coverage per month.

  • Woody ONeal

    This has nothing to do with photography and is merely, yes merely, a budgetary consequence of falling circulation and thus ad revenues at papers EVERYWHERE. If I was a newspaper photographer ANYWHERE, I’d be nervous as hell. Any one of these guys who were surprised by their layoff should remove their head from the sand.

  • Woody ONeal

    These guys need to remove their head from the sand. Falling circulation lower ad revenues = layoffs. How’d they not see this coming.

  • Woody ONeal

    now its 3 people. Sad and funny

  • KewlDewd

    Yes, but whether I have a Pulitzer or not has nothing to do with my input on the matter.

    A photographer’s talent and ability to produce quality images day in and day out in a changing world are what add value to a paper. Not what awards they have. There are tons of AMAZING photographers that have not won a Pulitzer.

  • KewlDewd

    So because a small town library (government facility, right? Ok, just checking) was able to deal with Obamacare without laying people off, Woody should be able to do the same? So you’re saying all businesses are the same? You could use a lesson on “the real world”, and take a common sense course while you’re at it.

    Question: Do the people who got cut to part time still have benefits? Probably not. I’ve never heard of anybody with just a part time job having employer provided health insurance.