AP staffers protest ‘onerous’ contract proposals

Romenesko Misc.
They’re holding rallies and withholding bylines. A union release says: “The staff is protesting AP’s demands to hike health insurance premiums 50 percent or more and slash retirement benefits about 50 percent, while giving only a tiny raise.” Contract talks resumed today. || The News Media Guild release is after the jump.

Press release

March 22, 2011

AP Reporters Rally For Quality Journalism In Labor Talks

More than two dozen Associated Press journalists held a rally outside AP’s Los Angeles bureau Tuesday afternoon to stand up for quality journalism at the world’s largest news agency. Hoisting picket signs (photos attached), they handed out leaflets to pedestrians and drew honks of support from passing motorists.

Staffers at more than 25 other AP bureaus across the nation held protests against AP’s onerous contract proposals last Wednesday, including in New York. There, about 100 staff members with picket signs and a large banner protested in front of the company’s world headquarters in Manhattan, wearing red Guild shirts, buttons and lanyards.

In Washington, D.C., staff and their family members held a rally on March 12 outside the Newseum that drew about 120 people and two dogs wearing Guild red.

The number of protests by AP’s journalists, technicians and other union-covered staff is unprecedented and has been escalating, with contract bargaining dragging on for nearly five months.

Last week, virtually all AP journalists withheld their names from their stories and photos, a big sacrifice for many reporting on major news, to send AP managers a message that they are united in opposing the company’s contract proposals and supporting their union, the News Media Guild.

The staff is protesting AP’s demands to hike health insurance premiums 50 percent or more and slash retirement benefits about 50 percent, while giving only a tiny raise.

AP’s 1,250 journalists and technicians have been trying to negotiate a new contract with the AP since October, but the company continues to insist on deep cuts.

The staff is protesting AP’s demands to hike health insurance premiums 50 percent or more and slash retirement benefits about 50 percent, while giving only a tiny raise.

AP enjoyed several years of strong growth before the recession and its CEO, former USA Today executive Tom Curley, says AP’s finances are improving again. Unlike newspapers and TV stations hurt by loss of advertisers to the Internet, AP has a wide range of income sources, including Internet customers such as Google and Yahoo, corporations, government agencies, specialty publications and foreign news outlets. Income from many of those sources is growing steadily.

AP workers have already made many concessions to reduce costs, and haven’t had a wage increase in two years. Some 10 percent of the staff were laid off in 2009, after years of attrition had already reduced staff to extremely low levels in most bureaus.

Yet AP insists on huge increases in our health care premiums, a tiny raise that won’t keep pace with inflation and a freeze of our pensions. The combined effect would immediately cut income for most of the staff and erase retirement security. Given the deep staff cuts at many other media outlets, AP’s reliable, unbiased journalism is needed more than ever.

Staff have been protesting these proposals since October, signing petitions, withholding their names from their work, withholding use of their personal cars and cell phones for assignments and sending direct appeals to Curley. AP hasn’t budged, even though its negotiators say AP can afford to give us a fair deal – it just doesn’t want to do so.

Last Wednesday, staffers at 28 AP bureaus around the country, including New York City, held protests. The other cities are: Montpelier, VT; Boston; Albany, NY; Hartford, CT area journalism schools; New York, NY; Trenton, NJ; Philadelphia; Baltimore, MD; Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Miami, FL; Detroit; Indianapolis, IN; Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN; New Orleans; Dallas, TX; Kansas City, MO; Columbia, MO; Chicago; Omaha, NE; Phoenix, AZ; Denver, CO; Cheyenne, WY; Salt Lake City, UT; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR, and Honolulu, HA.

Contract talks resumed Tuesday (March 22).

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  • Anonymous

    In my 35 years as a Guild member, I always thought the withholding of bylines was about the silliest and most worthless “protest” union members could make. It might make the protesters feel good, but readers don’t give a rip.

  • http://twitter.com/yvonnewells23 yvonnewells

    I am very thankful for our health insurance, and even more thankful that we found an affordable one through “Wise Medical Insurance” online. It has been 6 years that they have not increased my premiums. Having health insurance gives us a peace of mind