Archive | July, 2012

Non-newsroom Bargaining: Session 15

27 Jul

DENVER NEWSPAPER GUILD and Denver Post representatives met July 25.

Over the course of the day, the company and union exchanged multiple proposals and counter proposals covering all remaining issues. The two big issues are outsourcing of the inbound (customer service) and outbound (retention) circulation call centers and the pay rates for circulation home delivery and single copy employees.

In order to reach agreement on the full contract, The Post continues to insist that any agreement must include the amount of savings from the circulation call centers that they can achieve by sending that work to Honduras. After months of trying to negotiate an agreement that would keep the call center work at the Post, but reduce costs enough to be competitive with a Central American call center, it has become clear that the math just will not work. So the union presented a proposal accepting the outsourcing of the call center work in exchange for additional compensation and benefits for those who will be displaced but will continue working until their job is eliminated, increased compensation for call center employees who are retained and a timeline for the transition of work to Honduras. Most of the details have been tentatively agreed to. The timeline and a few benefits issues are not yet resolved.

The outsourcing likely will result in the elimination of more than 30 local call center employees’ jobs, leaving two full-time employees and five part-time employees.

A tentative agreement was reached concerning pay cuts in the home delivery department. Pay for District Managers and Assistant District Managers will be cut to the 2009 concession rates, a 7.5 percent cut for District Managers and 6.75 percent cut for Assistant District Managers. The amount of pay cuts for some single copy employees has not yet been agreed to.

Mileage reimbursement for those who use their personal car for work will be reduced to 15 cents below the IRS rate.

Under provisions that have been tentatively agreed to and proposals still being negotiated, very little will change for most Guild-covered employees. Wages, pension, insurance benefits and sick leave will remain unchanged.

Subjects that have not yet been resolved include:

  • The length of the new contract
  • Some jurisdiction issues
  • Union security
  • Part-time eligibility for health insurance
  • A few call center issues
  • Single copy pay

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 9.

Kathy Rudolph
Sam Johnson
Maureen Shively
Michelle Miller
Tom Peterson
Laurie Faliano
Paulette Shrefler
Tony Mulligan

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Newsroom Bargaining: Session 15

21 Jul

GUILD AND MANAGEMENT representatives met June 20 to continue collective bargaining for the newsroom.

We began by going over a list of things that need to be cleaned up in our existing contract. Some of these items were simple, such as removing obsolete concession and snapback language. Other core items such as pensions and wages required more discussion.

After lunch, the COMPANY handed out a proposal encompassing issues that are still on the table.
After reviewing the company’s initial proposal, the GUILD drafted a counter proposal, noted below in blue.
The COMPANY considered the guild’s proposal and offered their second-round proposal, noted in maroon.

PENSION PLAN

  • COMPANY: Freeze the local pension plan. This means whatever amount you are entitled to today will be all you receive from the local plan when you retire. There would be no additional pension benefits for future years of employment. New employees would have no pension from the local plan. The Company did not propose any changes to The Newspaper Guild International Pension Plan, the much smaller of our two pension plans.
  • GUILD: Reduce the local pension benefit formula by half. Employees would receive the full pension they have earned to now plus one half benefits for years beyond today.
  • COMPANY: No change from initial proposal.

401(k)

  • COMPANY: The 401(k) plan shall continue to be offered to employees. The company match to the 401(k) is eliminated. The company can change or alter the 401(k) plan.
  • GUILD: Continue the suspension of the 401(k) match.
  • COMPANY: No change from initial proposal.

YOURHUB

  • COMPANY: 1) YourHub staff may be assigned to write stories specifically for The Denver Post at the Denver Post reporter wage rate.
    2) The Denver Post may publish any YourHub story.
    3) Increase YourHub wages by 10 percent.
  • GUILD: 1) The committee agreed that YourHub staff will be allowed to write stories for The Denver Post at Denver Post reporter scale.
    2) The committee agreed with the company proposal to allow The Denver Post to publish YourHub content.
    3) To put the company’s proposed YourHub wage increase in context, a 10 percent increase would have a YourHub staffer earning $124 less per week than what a top-of-scale Editorial Assistant currently makes, or $115 less per week than a first-year reporter regardless of how long the YourHub staffer has been employed with The Post. (Figures are for base pay only and do not include any merit pay.)
    The Guild’s counter-proposal is to have new YourHub employees start at the current rate of $562 per week. YourHub staffers with one year of experience would earn $624 per week (10 percent above current scale.) Staffers with three or more years experience would receive $686 per week.
    4) YourHub staff should be eligible for severance in the event the YourHub publications are discontinued.
  • COMPANY: The company noted a tentative agreement to the first two points, offered no change from their initial proposal regarding wages and did not respond to the Guild’s fourth point on severance.

COPY DESK

  • COMPANY: Elimination of the Copy Editor, Assistant Copy Desk Chief and Wire Editor positions and creation of the Assistant Editor position to be paid at Classification 17 scale.
  • GUILD: The bargaining committee worked with the company to allow the changes to the former copy desk.
  • COMPANY: The company noted a tentative agreement to the Copy Desk issue.

PERFORMANCE APPRAISALS

  • COMPANY: Within 30 days after the date of a new contract, the company will have a preview evaluation with each newsroom employee to explain the performance-appraisal system. Six months later, each employee will be given a full performance appraisal. Thereafter performance appraisals will be done on the employee’s anniversary date of hire.
  • GUILD: Thirty to 60 days after the date of a new contract, the company will have a preview evaluation with each newsroom employee. Six months later, the company will provide each employee with a full performance appraisal. This first round of full appraisals will be completed within two months. Six months after the first full appraisal, each employee will receive a second full appraisal. The second round of full appraisals will be completed within two months. Thereafter full performance appraisals will be completed within two weeks of each employee’s anniversary date of hire.
    Any changes to the performance appraisal system shall be negotiated between the Company and the Guild.
  • COMPANY: Essentially the same as the Guild’s counter proposal except that there shall only be a preview evaluation and one round of full appraisals before regular appraisals are performed within two weeks of an employee’s anniversary date.

REDUCTION IN FORCE — ARTICLE VII-B, SECTION 4

  • COMPANY: In the event of layoffs to reduce the workforce, our current language considering seniority within a job title would be used. However, an additional layer of department would be added. That is, layoffs would be considered by job title within a department rather than by job title across the newsroom. In addition, the company proposed that each side, company and guild, would be allowed to protect no more than two employees from being laid off.
    After the last day of the contract we are bargaining now, or after all employees have received their second full performance appraisals corresponding with their anniversary dates, whichever is later, layoffs shall be based on seniority, work record, the employee’s qualifications and ability to do the remaining work.
  • GUILD: Prior to the completion of the second full performance appraisal, the current layoff language considering seniority will be used except in the case of reporters who would use seniority by job title within a department. Departments are defined as Metro/Business, Sports and Features.
    After the second full performance appraisals are completed, determinations for layoffs shall be in reverse order of the total number of points. How points for each employee are calculated:
    — Two points for every year of service within a job title, up to a maximum of 50 points.
    — Up to 50 points for an employee’s performance appraisal. If an employee has not had a performance appraisal within six months prior to the notice of a layoff, the most recent appraisal may be revisited and updated.
    If two or more employees have the same total points, seniority with the company will be the tie breaker.
  • COMPANY: Prior to the completion of the second full performance appraisal, our current layoff language will apply by job title by department. Departments are Metro, Business, Sports, Features and Editorial Page. In addition, each party can protect one employee in a department.
    After the second full performance appraisals are completed, layoffs shall be by job title by department in reverse order of the total number of points. Points are determined as follows:
    — One point for every year of service within a job title, up to a maximum of 20 points.
    — Up to 80 points for the performance appraisal. If an employee has not had a performance appraisal within six months prior to the notice of a layoff, the most recent performance appraisal may be updated.
    If two or more employees subject to the layoff have the same total points, company seniority shall be the tie breaker.

EMPLOYEE SECURITY — ARTICLE VII-B, SECTION 5(a)

  • COMPANY: Change the language of our current contract to focus the provision solely on equipment (removing the term “processes”) and shorten the time periods to implement changes after the Guild has been notified of equipment changes. Current language is six months’ notice, if possible, but no less than three months’ notice. Company’s proposed time frame is three months, if possible, but no less than one months’ notice.
  • GUILD: Keep the current language intact, except agree to the company’s proposed time frame for notice.
  • COMPANY: The company agreed to the Guild’s counter proposal.

VIVA

  • The Guild had proposed bringing Viva Colorado employees currently working on the same floor as The Denver Post newsroom under the scope of the newsroom contract.
    COMPANY: The company maintained this issue was outside the scope of the newsroom contract asserting that Viva Colorado employees are covered by the non-newsroom Guild unit.
  • GUILD: The bargaining committee agreed to the company’s assertion. It should be noted that although the editorial portions of Viva Colorado are produced on the same floor as The Denver Post newsroom, they are working for the advertising department. Any work done by Denver Post newsroom employees for Viva must be approved by Post management and appropriately charged to Viva Colorado.
  • COMPANY: The company noted a tentative agreement.

HEALTH INSURANCE

  • COMPANY: Keeping the employees’ premium share for health insurance the same — 30 percent.
  • GUILD: Guild-covered newsroom employees should pay the same premium share for health insurance as the non-newsroom unit:
    — 22 percent for employee only
    — 26 percent for employee plus child
    — 30 percent for employee plus spouse or family
  • COMPANY: No change from initial proposal.

FUNERAL LEAVE — ARTICLE XVII, SECTION 3

  • The current contract states funeral leave must be taken within seven days of a death. We had discussed the possibility of allowing employees to schedule bereavement leave farther out than a week and arrived at a tentative agreement in early May.
    COMPANY: The key clause in the company’s proposal states: In order to be eligible to take such leave the employee must notify his/her supervisor within 5 business days of the death and schedule the date the leave will begin.
  • GUILD: The committee agreed with the company’s proposed language with the addition of adding that employees will work with their supervisor to schedule time off.
  • COMPANY: The company agreed to the Guild’s proposed addition.

GUILD MEMBERSHIP

  • COMPANY: If the bargaining committees reach agreement on all company and guild issues, all newsroom employees shall be required to join the Guild.
  • GUILD: The Guild bargaining committee agreed to the company’s proposal.

TERM OF CONTRACT

  • COMPANY: An 18-month contract term.
  • GUILD: 36 months.
  • COMPANY: No change from initial proposal.

In addition to the above issues outlined by the company, the Guild made the following proposals:

WAGES

  • GUILD: Across the board wage increases, except as outlined above for YourHub:
    — 2 percent increase to take effect Jan. 1, 2013.
    — 2 percent increase to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
    — 3 percent increase to take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
    This 7 percent total increase corresponds to the change in the Consumer Price Index from 2008 to 2011. This means our wages in 2015 would be keeping pace with inflation for the past three years, albeit three years behind.
  • COMPANY: Freeze wages at their current levels.

EQUIPMENT

  • GUILD: $75 reimbursement of cell phone and data plans for employees required to have a cell phone.
  • COMPANY: Reimbursement of up to $50 for employees required to have a cell phone. Additional data plan reimbursement may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

WORKING IN A HIGHER CLASS

  • GUILD: Employees working more than one hour in any eight-hour shift in a higher wage classification shall be paid eight hours at the higher classification. Our current contract states the employee must work four or more hours in the higher classification to be paid eight hours at the higher rate.
    If an employee works in a higher wage classification 30 percent of the time during a three month period, the employee will advance to the higher classification.
  • COMPANY: Same as current contract.

We are scheduled to meet again on July 24.

Because of the Century Aurora 16 shootings, the July 24 bargaining session was cancelled. We have not yet scheduled another date.

We are scheduled to meet again on August 21.

Thomas McKay
Sara Burnett
Kieran Nicholson
Jim Ludvik
Kyle Wagner
Kevin Hamm
Tony Mulligan

Los Links: Break The Chains, But Don’t Wait Too Long

8 Jul

Want to save local newspapers? Then break the chains that hold them back
In this piece for OJR: The Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles writes that economies of scale don’t work in the newspaper business anymore and it’s time to break up the chains.

Locally-focused news publications must become truly local, with local information, produced by local reporters with local ties, sold to local advertisers by a local sales staff who work for a local owner.

News Corp Split, Buffett’s Bet Top Year of Big Media Ownership Changes
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has a nice wrap-up of media transactions over the last couple of years.

According to the investment banking firm of Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, which monitors newspaper transactions, a total of 71 daily newspapers were sold as part of 11 different transactions during 2011, the busiest year for sales since 2007.

There’s a mention of Alden Global Capital’s acquisition of the Journal Register Company, and “Alden Global has also invested in several other newspaper organizations,” including MediaNews Group (two of the seven MediaNews Group directors are from Alden Global Capital).

And be sure to check out the list of Who Owns the News Media that covers newspapers, TV and radio.

The Fissures Are Growing for Papers
The New York Times’ David Carr writes about “cracks in publishing operations,” one of the bigger ones being underfunded pensions that threaten companies’ financial health. “There are smart people trying to innovate, and tons of great journalism is published daily, but the financial distress is more visible by the week.”

Those of us who work inside the racket like to think of our business as unique, but with underfunded pension plans, unserviceable debt and legacy manufacturing processes and union agreements, the newspaper industry looks a lot like, well, steel, autos and textiles.

Report: How to Build Trust In the Digital Age
Mediabistro’s 10,000 Words column has a piece by Mona Zhang about a report that examines the quality of journalism in the digital age, which “investigates the notions of objectivity and impartiality in the digital world, and whether or not we can trust the new forms of journalism that are emerging as a result of new technologies.”

He (Richard Sambrook) writes that as the traditional business models erode, there has been an increase in “journalism of assertion” and “journalism of affirmation”—models that rely on immediacy and volume, and affirming the beliefs of its audience.

Newspapers Chronicle Lives of Returning Veterans
Nu Yang wrote a piece for Editor & Publisher about the American Homecomings project by The Denver Post and Digital First Media.

The site is really a public service project,” (Lee Ann) Colacioppo said. “We’re doing it for the veterans who are returning and to serve that community … the feedback we’ve received so far is from readers thanking us for sharing these stories and veterans who appreciate the attention to the subject.

And a link to the American Homecomings project since there doesn’t seem to be one in the story.

Lastly, here’s a fun little infographic about the consolidation of media in America.

A Race To The Bottom

2 Jul

From theatlantic.com

Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.

— Molly Ivins

Turning Our Backs on Unions
In his New York Times column, Joe Nocera writes about The Great Divergence, a book about income inequality by Timothy Noah. Noah makes the argument that the decline in middle-class wages corresponds with the decline in union membership. Noah writes, “Draw one line on a graph charting the decline in union membership, then superimpose a second line charting the decline in middle-class income share, and you will find that the two lines are nearly identical.” Nocera writes that this makes perfect sense — “company managements don’t pay workers any more than they have to.”

In their heyday, unions represented a countervailing force that could extract money for its workers that helped keep them in the middle class. Noah notes that a JPMorgan economist calculated that the majority of increased corporate profits between 2000 and 2007 were the result of “reductions in wages and benefits.”

Labor’s Decline and Wage Inequality
Last year in the New York Times, Steven Greenhouse wrote about a study that tied the decline in union influence to an increase in wage inequality. The study’s authors also assert “that the decline of organized labor held down wages in union and nonunion workplaces alike.”

The study noted that from 1973 to 2007, union membership in the private sector dropped to 8 percent from 34 percent among men and to 6 percent from 16 percent among women. During that time, wage inequality in the private sector increased by more than 40 percent, the study found.

Dems Go AWOL in Class War
In a piece for Politico that appeared in an abridged version on the Post’s opinion pages Sunday, Jonathan Martin writes the decline in populism can be tied in part to the decline of organized labor, and asks, “What the hell ever happened to populism in the Democratic Party?”

Populism — with its rowdy zeal to brawl against economic elites on behalf of the working classes — was for decades the party’s defining cause. … In language that highlights the tameness of contemporary class warfare, FDR railed against “economic royalists” and the “forces of organized greed,” and, of his business opponents, he gloated, “I welcome their hatred.”

Lastly, here’s a table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows median wages by occupation for union and nonunion workers. In 2011, union workers in “arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations” had median wages that were nearly 30 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts.