Labor issues

Guardian US editorial staff move to unionize

The Huffington Post

Guardian US announced a move to unionize in an independent ballot conducted by the American Arbitration Association, on Wednesday. The company would be unionizing under the News Media Guild – an operation that represents over 2,000 digital workers at news publications.

“This is a big day not only for the writers and staff members at The Guardian US but for the news industry as a whole. Digital media is growing up, and it’s time our digital reporters received the same benefits and protections as their print media colleagues,” said Bernard Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA.

Guardian US is the latest addition to the list of digital only publications including Gawker and Salon that decided to unionize last month.

While Guardian US will be unionizing under the News Media Guild, Gawker and Salon unionized with Writers Guild of America, East. Read more

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AFL-CIO chief asks Salon to voluntarily recognize workers’ union

America’s top labor leader is asking Salon to voluntarily recognize the Writers Guild of America, East as bargaining agent for its editorial workers.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote Salon Media Group CEO Cindy Jeffers on Thursday, requesting Salon voluntarily recognizes the union and not force a formal representation election.

Most of the staff has signed up with the union, which is the same one that won a recent representation election at Gawker Media. Gawker is now in the earliest stages of a process that will prompt negotiations over a first contract.

If the company does not voluntarily recognize the union, it would trigger a traditional representation election, such as the one held at Gawker Media. The vote would be supervised by either the National Labor Relations Board or perhaps a third party mediator agreed to by both sides. Read more

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Philly’s new union deals: What do they mean? A union view

Related: Philly’s labor talks: What do they mean? A management view

howginslerWorkers at Philly.com voted 30-1 late Wednesday to ratify a new two-year contract with management. The contract is similar to a related one bargained by their union, the Newspaper Guild, and ratified by the more than 400 workers at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. They key elements are improved management contributions to health care plans, greater company flexibility in layoffs when it comes to seniority, and no increase in base wages.

I spoke with Daily News columnist Howard Gensler, part of the union bargaining team, about the negotiations, the changes they reflect and their potential relevance to previously non-union online news organizations now interested in collective bargaining, notably Gawker Media and Salon.

1. Read more

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Philly’s labor talks: What do they mean? A management view

Related: Philly’s new union deals: What do they mean? A union view

Stan Wischnowski

Stan Wischnowski

A key figure for management in the just-concluded and ratified new two-year contracts at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com is Stan Wischnowski, who is vice president for news operations at The Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com. Bargaining in an age of increasing fragmentation and austerity is not easy, especially at big-city dailies. The two new deals were concluded Wednesday with Newspaper Guild ratification of the second of two agreements. They include increased company contributions to health care plans, greater flexibility when it comes to traditionally seniority-driven layoffs and no increase in basic wages.

1. What’s the importance of the labor agreements in Philadelphia?

These were very difficult negotiations for everyone involved and that cannot be overstated. Read more

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A union revolution at Gawker isn’t quite around the corner

Screengrab from Gawker.com

Screengrab from Gawker.com

The June 3 vote by editorial employees at Gawker Media to join a union was greeted with much fanfare. It was, after all, a distinct rarity in the digital media world.

Now comes the laborious part.

As reiterated by senior writer Hamilton Nolan, a fairly lengthy process typical to the early stages of any prospective unionization move is now triggered.

It includes finding representatives from each individual Gawker site to comprise a bargaining committee to represent the 118 covered employees.

When that’s done, there will be detailed discussions among that group on an agenda for negotiations.

What specific matters are most important to those representatives? One size may not fit all, so perhaps some topics are more germane to one group than they are to another. Read more

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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

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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

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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

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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

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