Labor issues

On Oct. 31, 2008, the Washington Post building is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Washington Post, Guild reach tentative agreement

Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild News Co-Chair Fredrick Kunkle says in a Facebook post that The Washington Post and its union members “have reached tentative agreement on a new contract.” All Guild members will get a raise under the proposed agreement.

Among the deal points: Departing employees will still get two weeks’ pay for each year they’ve worked at the Post, and a guarantee that laid-off employees can either return to work “when economic conditions improve —or, as is more often the case, negotiate a fair buyout that allows a person time to recover after permanently giving up his or her job.”

The Guild thanks “Post’s management—and particularly its new owner, Jeffrey Bezos–for reaching a fair agreement.”

Full posting: Read more

Stack of newspapers

Star-Ledger publisher threatens to close paper

The Star-Ledger

Publisher Richard Vezza says he’ll shut down The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger at the end of 2013 if it can’t come to an agreement with one of the four unions at the paper, Kelly Heyboer reports.

The Advance-owned paper’s newsroom isn’t a union shop, but its pressmen, engravers, machinists and mailers — who “handle the newspapers after they emerge from the presses, helping insert advertising supplements and preparing the papers to be loaded on delivery trucks” — have unions. Negotiations with all but the mailers have been fruitful: Read more


Washington Post Guild: ‘The Post would like to fire you’

The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild says a Washington Post proposal for a new agreement with the union “would give managers the power to fire anyone for any reason” and also inserts a “poison pill that would make it even harder for the union to collect dues at the end of the next contract.”

Its proposal says management “reserves the right to terminate an employee for attendance and performance problems” without a written warning and a suspension as is currently required, “in appropriate cases.”

Another proposal, the bulletin says, would “eliminate important layoff provisions.” Read more

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Star Tribune Guild approves contract that includes raises

City Pages | Star Tribune | Star Tribune Newspaper Guild

Star Tribune Guild members approved a contract Wednesday that guarantees them 2 percent raises this year and in 2015. The deal, Olivia LaVecchia reports, was “one of the better Guild contracts negotiated nationally in the past year,” Guild official Janet Moore wrote in an email. Read more


Some news orgs’ social media policies are on shaky legal ground

The New York Times | Poynter
If your social media policy prevents employees from saying anything bad about the company, it might be going too far.

The National Labor Relations Board has weighed in on several cases where employees lost their jobs because of social media activity, Steven Greenhouse reports.

The board is standing up for the rights of workers to discuss wages and working conditions. The legal term is “concerted activity” — when workers take action to collectively discuss their employment terms — and the board says that’s just as protected on social media as it is in the company break room. Read more


Philly Guild, owners find room to negotiate

The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia and Interstate General Media “agreed to begin early bargaining on a new contract,” Guild Executive Director Bill Ross and Acting President Howard Gensler tell members in an email. The agreement came during “a productive meeting” Thursday morning.

IGM owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Its owners had demanded $8 million in concessions from the union or would begin liquidating the company, the Guild said last Friday. Guild President Dan Gross resigned Wednesday after he said he was taking a buyout from the Daily News.

If the parties can’t come to an agreement or if the Guild’s members don’t approve an agreement, the Guild says, “our existing contract stays in effect until it expires in October.”

Daniel Denvir published an account of the news organizations’ struggles‘ in Philadelphia City Paper Thursday, looking at “questionable editorial choices” and some newsroom sniping about Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow.

Former Sun columnist Mike Littwin, according to sources, infuriated Marimow by writing a union memo critical of management. Littwin came to Marimow’s office and told him, “Bill, it isn’t personal.” Marimow opened a copy of The Godfather and pointed out the passage where Michael Corleone says, “Don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal.” Littwin was transferred soon thereafter; he filed a grievance and won a settlement, sources say.

Here’s the Guild memo: Read more


Guild: Owners say they may liquidate or sell Philly papers this month

The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia
Interstate General Media says it will “liquidate or sell” assets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and next week “if it does not reach tentative agreements with all of its unions, including the Newspaper Guild,” the Guild’s Dan Gross and Bill Ross write in a blog post.

Federal law requires companies with more than 100 employees to give 60 calendar days’ notice before undertaking mass layoffs; a check of Pennsylvania’s WARN database shows no such notices from IGM in November or December. Read more


New York Times, Guild turn to mediation

Jim Romenesko | The Newspaper Guild of New York | The Huffington Post
Jim Romenesko publishes a memo from New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. alerting staff that “the Company and the Guild have agreed to mediation in order to maximize the potential of reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.”

Martin Scheinman, who once broke up a bar fight by convincing one combatant his cue stick was too expensive to smash upon another, will attempt to bring the sides together.

Romenesko also publishes a note from Times staffer Walter Baranger to colleagues that says digital and print employees need to stick together, even if they end up with separate contracts.

This means making sure that digital and print contract members talk to each other, compare goals and resolve to not approve one contract without approving the other, if a vote comes.

The Guild says it proposed Scheinman and tells members “A mediator cannot force a settlement, but instead uses persuasion to try to bring the parties to agreement.”

A mediator generally does not come up with his own proposals, but rather tries to push the parties closer to their respective positions. Neither side is bound by the mediator’s suggestions or proposals. And in the end, any tentative agreement that emerges from mediation will need the approval of the Guild bargaining committee and the ratification of a majority of Times Guild members before it becomes a contract.

The Huffington Post’s Katherine Fung publishes a memo from Times science reporter Donald G. McNeil that says “This is very good for the process – we were getting nowhere. Whether it is good for us remains to be seen.”

Previously: Guild: New York Times management canceled today’s negotiations, plans ‘final offer’ tomorrow | New York Times union members stage brief walkout to protest contract negotiations | New York Times management says it wants unified contract, like Guild Read more


Guild: New York Times management canceled today’s negotiations, plans ‘final offer’ tomorrow

The Newspaper Guild of New York
New York Times management responded to the walkout employees staged Monday by “throwing a tantrum and taking two provocative actions Tuesday,” the Newspaper Guild of New York writes.

First, the management team walked out of contract negotiations after only 10 minutes. Second, late in the day, management informed the Guild that it intends to make a “final offer” on Thursday, as well as canceling Wednesday’s scheduled negotiating session.

The two sides are negotiating on several issues, including scheduled raises and pension contributions. The Guild pointed out last month that the Times’ law firm Proskauer Rose represented the NFL in its dispute with referees. “[W]e’ve seen how well that’s turned out,” Guild President Bill O’Meara wrote. Read more

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Philadelphia newspaper owners demand immediate concessions from union

The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia
The new owners of the Philadelphia newspapers are demanding immediate concessions from the Guild that represents employees of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and, union officials Dan Gross and Bill Ross write in a blog post.

They say Gerry Lenfest and Lewis Katz, members of the group of local businessmen who bought the news organizations in April, met with Guild reps and:

spoke of the dire financial situation facing the company, and reiterated management’s recent request that the Guild bargain a concessionary contract now, despite the fact that our contract with the employer is in effect until October 2013.

In a letter to employees last month, IGM CEO Bob Hall told employees revenue at the company was down $16 million from the year before. It told the Guild the same day it would seek $28 million in cuts. Read more

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