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Denver Newspaper Guild Website Has Moved

27 Apr

The Denver Newspaper Guild website has moved to denvernewspaperguild.org. Hope to see you there.

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New Journal Register Co. Owner Aims to Carve Up Contracts

28 Mar

wikimedia.orgBALKING AT CONTRACT terms they call outrageous, some 175 Journal Register Company employees in Michigan voted to lead a boycott of the papers [Detroit Free Press].

Since early March, the Detroit Newspaper Guild has been in negotiations with 21st CMH Acquisition Co., the Alden Global Capital unit that received approval last week to buy Journal Register Co.’s assets out of bankruptcy.

Poynter printed a Guild bulletin outlining the company’s demands, which include a 15 percent pay cut and more than doubling employees’ health insurance premiums, according to the Detroit Free Press.

From the Detroit Free Press story:

Louis Mleczko, president of the Newspaper Guild of Detroit, which represents employees at the Macomb Daily and the Daily Tribune, said the employment terms are outrageous. He said Macomb Daily employees took a pension freeze and a 12.5% pay cut four years ago and have gotten just 2.5% back.

“They took tremendous sacrifice to help keep this entity afloat, but now (the company) decided to take on the unions and get rid of them and gut their contracts,” Mleczko said.

The contracts expires March 31. Workers have authorized a possible strike or other labor action once the contracts end.

Journal Register Company’s Bankruptcy Sale Approved

21 Mar

A NEW YORK bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of the Journal Register Company’s assets to Alden Global Capital’s stalking-horse bidder, 21st CMH Acquisition Corp. The ruling came down March 21.

The same judge had delayed a ruling March 19 to further review an objection to the sale made by a division of the Communication Workers of America.

“No one is giving them (the buyer) a free pass in the future,” the judge was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg story.

In the March 21 ruling, the judge ruled that since the transaction won’t close until after the union’s contract expires March 31, the sale could proceed.

Journal Register Co. employs some 1,800 full-time and 500 part-time workers spread across 10 states, including Nick Henderson, a copy editor at the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y.

Unions: Journal Register Co. Has “Declared War”

4 Mar

IN A MARCH 1 story on Poynter.org, Mich. unions say JRC has “declared war,” threaten strike, Andrew Beaujon writes the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions is warning its members of union-busting tactics being employed by Journal Register Company and the Alden Global Capital subsidiary, 21st CMH Acquisition Co., that plans to “purchase” the company in bankruptcy proceedings.

According to the union’s bulletin:

JRC and 21st CMH declared war in FOUR ways:

1. On February 22, JRC gave notice to all the unions at the Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune that it was terminating all collective bargaining agreements. The termination of contracts would be effective March 31. JRC is doing this because it claims it will no longer be the employer when 21st CMH becomes the owner of the newspapers on April 17.

2. JRC has refused to live up the successor clauses in the collective bargaining agreements. It has refused to require its purchaser, 21st CMH, to accept the current union agreements.

3. In Philadelphia and New York, 21st CMH proposed union-busting contracts. It proposed contracts that eliminate all protections regarding work jurisdiction, subcontracting and outsourcing. Those proposed contracts give 21st CMH management the right to change terms and conditions of employment at any time – insurance, work schedules, compensation, etc.

4. When the Philadelphia and New York unions would not to agree to the union-busting contracts, 21st CMH sent letters to JRC employees telling them they could apply for their own jobs when 21st CMH becomes the employer. 21st CMH would selectively hire some employees. The new terms of employment by 21st CMH, according to the letters, include:

  • 15% pay cut.
  • employees pay 50% of health insurance cost and 50% of future premium increases.
  • elimination of all pension plans.
  • reduced vacation schedule.
  • reduced severance pay if jobs are eliminated

An employee at one of the Michigan papers commented on the Denver Newspaper Guild site that some workers aren’t waiting around to see how this all plays out:

As an employee in the Michigan Cluster it is very unfair to us to be on pins and needles and when questions are asked we get answers read from a script. They need to tell us if we are going to have jobs, be considered for jobs, something so we know. Most are being very proactive in searching for another job right now.

In a related story, three Philadelphia units of the Newspaper Guild voted to accept a “final offer” from 21st CMH.

“Our members voted this up resoundingly, but they also were told take it or leave it,” [Newspaper] Guild President Bernie Lunzer said. “This new ownership which is really the old owners reconstituted – sent letters warning all workers that they would be fired when the sale is complete and would have to reapply for their jobs, and would have their pay cut.”

Things with the Journal Register Co. bankruptcy are starting to move fast, so stay tuned.

Journal Register Company’s Bankruptcy Sale Hits a Snag

25 Feb

IT APPEARS THE Journal Register Company bankruptcy plan hit a snag last week at the 11th hour. Law360 reported that newspaper unions involved in the process, as well as the Communications Workers of America, have objected to the sale of Journal Register Co. to the stalking horse bidder that is a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital, 21st CMH Acquisition. A hearing on the sale had been scheduled for Feb. 21.

In a story on the Newspaper Guild’s website, Guild president Bernie Lunzer said Journal Register Co. isn’t respecting the process, or its workers.

“While we know we won’t walk away with the status quo, we make it clear that our members, their workers, will be treated with dignity and respect,” he said. “The Journal Register Co. is showing no such respect, not for its workers and not for the bankruptcy process itself, which certainly was never intended to be a get-out-of-jail-free card for businesses facing some financial trouble every couple of years.”

Pursuant to the bankruptcy process, Journal Register Co. mailed notices to employees and agencies in the 10 states where the company operates papers that layoffs could result from the bankruptcy, including 844 workers in Michigan285 in Connecticut230 in New York and 217 in Ohio.

From a story in Crain’s Cleveland Business, “Journal Register Co. puts its employees on needles and pins”:

The process that JRC is going through “is quite common in bankruptcy proceedings,” John Collard, chairman of Strategic Management Partners, an Annapolis, Md.-based business turnaround firm, tells The New Haven Register.

“When somebody buys a company out of bankruptcy, they are buying a specific list of assets, usually not 100 percent of what the existing business has,” Mr. Collard tells the newspaper. “While they can purchase assets, it’s not possible to purchase employees. So the acquiring company comes to employees and offers them the same terms they had with the old company or different terms.”

He says it’s likely that 21st CMH Acquisition Co. will not retain all of the Journal Register employees.

And from a story in The Saratogian:

“The notices sent to all Journal Register Company employees – from part-time staffers to managers to the executive team – are the next step in the Company’s ongoing sale process. Journal Register Company’s leadership team cannot speak on behalf of the new owner but has continually expressed to the purchaser that a competent and competitive workforce is critical to the company’s success moving forward,” Jonathan Cooper, vice president for media relations and employee communication at Digital First Media, said. Digital First Media currently operates Journal Register Company and other media companies.

April 17 is the target date for the sale to be completed.

More tidbits:

Alden Global Capital is a large stakeholder in another high-profile media bankruptcy:
Reader’s Digest parent company files for bankruptcy again | Reuters, Feb. 18, 2013

And for Journal Register Co., it’s deja vu all over again:
Journal Register Faces Bankrutpcy Plan Objections | New York Times, June 26, 2009

For more information on Alden Global Capital, click on the tag below this story.

Los Links | Unions: The End is Nigh

25 Jan

IN CASE YOU missed it, unions are in their death throes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing in 2012 union membership declined by 400,000 to 14.3 million workers, or 11.3 percent of the workforce, down from 11.8 percent in 2011.

That the decline that began in the 1950s is continuing isn’t really earth-shattering news.

A collection of somewhat random links and snippets:

Share of the Work Force in a Union Falls to a 97-Year Low, 11.3% | The New York Times

Labor specialists cited several reasons for the steep one-year decline in union membership. Among the factors were new laws that rolled back the power of unions in Wisconsin, Indiana and other states, the continued expansion by manufacturers like Boeing and Volkswagen in nonunion states and the growth of sectors like retail and restaurants, where unions have little presence.

Al Lewis: America hates unions more than CEOs | The Denver Post

Americans hate organized labor, but somehow they do not hate organized management.

As the labor unions have declined, professional corporate managers have formed increasingly powerful guilds of their own. They belong to elite groups, such as the Business Roundtable or the Trilateral Commission, to name a couple. Many are even having a little cabal in Davos, Switzerland this week.

Raw Data: The Union Premium | Mother Jones

To give you an idea of what this means in real-life terms, here’s the latest data on the difference in wages between unionized and nonunionized workers.

Was the decline of American unions inevitable? Not if you ask Canada | The Washington Post

Between the 1920s and 1960s, both countries saw a similar surge in union membership, thanks to changes in labor law and the growth of sectors ripe for organizing, such as automobile manufacturing. But around 1965, something changed. The two countries diverged. Union membership held steady in Canada, but plummeted in the United States.

Labor Unions: Declining Membership Shows Labor Laws Need Modernizing | The Heritage Foundation

Such sharp drops in union membership indicate that U.S. labor laws are out of step with the modern economy. Traditional unions no longer appeal to workers the way they did two generations ago. Outdated restrictions in labor laws are now seen as holding back both employers and employees.

If Labor Dies, What’s Next? | The American Prospect

For many Americans, the death of labor would doubtless seem the natural order of things, the dinosaur finally shuffling off to the graveyard. Unions have no presence in the hottest and hippest sectors of the economy, in high-tech, fashion, and finance. The public’s image of labor is a memory of a memory that’s anywhere from 50 to 100 years old—the Yiddish- and Italian-speaking seamstresses of the Lower East Side, the goons in On the Waterfront, and, for the historically sentient, George Meany puffing a cigar and damning the Vietnam peaceniks.

It doesn’t seem to matter that these images don’t conform to present reality. Today, there are millions more unionized teachers than unionized truckers. Of the six unions with more than a million members, two are headed by lesbians and one by an African American, a level of diversity in these troglodytic institutions not to be found on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley.

But labor’s anachronistic image persists, and for a reason: It stubbornly represents blue-collar workers long after they’ve gone out of style and their numbers have diminished. It speaks for autoworkers and steelworkers, for the cutting-edge industries of 1935. To the young, even to most campus activists, unions are a holdover from their great-grandparents’ generation, speaking a language as incomprehensible as Old English: solidarity, shop stewards, seniority, strikes. Where are unions in the new economy? Can a union do anything for a temp? A part-timer? A software writer? A barista? Will anyone under 30—will anyone over 30—even notice if unions cease to be?

Perhaps not. But everyone will notice the consequences. Absent a substantial union movement, the American middle class will shrink. Absent a substantial union movement, the concentration of wealth will increase. Absent a substantial union movement, the corporate domination of government will grow.

Union Membership In America Continues Its Long Decline | Business Insider

But if you’re thinking about this like an economist, you may be thinking, a) we can’t support these union premiums in a competitive, global economy, and b) the declines in unionization I bemoan here must be associated with more job creation, right? We’re squeezing out an inefficient market interference and thus moving down a demand curve, getting workers’ wages more aligned with their efficient market wage and thus generating more jobs.

I disagree. There are many other advanced economies with far more union coverage that are extremely competitive—more so than we are.

Unions, inequality, and faltering middle-class wages | Economic Policy Institute

If we want the fruits of economic growth to benefit the vast majority, we will have to adopt a different set of guideposts for setting economic policy, as the ones in place over the last several decades have served those with the most income, wealth, and political power. Given unions’ important role in setting standards for both union and nonunion workers, we must ensure that every worker has access to collective bargaining.

The Data | Bureau of Labor Statistics

And since you made it this far you deserve a song. Hint: It’s from the Simpsons.

Deal With the Devil

14 Dec

{Cleveland Plain Dealer union members ratify new agreement, by Julie Moos on Poynter.org, Dec. 11, 2012}

IN THE WAKE of owners of the Cleveland Plain Dealer announcing plans to cut 58 journalists — one-third of the newsroom — in 2013, Guild members approved a new six-year contract Dec. 11.

That contract provides for 8 percent wage increases for workers remaining after the layoffs, partially offsetting the 12 percent pay cut they agreed to in 2009.

The contract allows the company to lay off five people in 2014, but protects workers from layoffs for the rest of the contract’s term.

The Guild also agreed to let non-Guild workers be hired for the Plain Dealer’s website, cleveland.com.

In the long-run, this gives Advance greater latitude to hire less experienced journalists for less pay with different skills for its website, and then use that material in its print product. The staff cuts save money, not reduced print days, according to an analysis done by Rick Edmonds.

Harlan Spector, chairman of the Plain Dealer’s unit of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, said,

“A big part of that is we’ve given them some language that could, over the years, really diminish our numbers. It gives them the ability to put cheap content in the paper.”

Spector calls the new agreement “a bitter pill but it beats the alternative.” That alternative was the company’s announcement that without the new agreement, it would cut half the staff next year.

Cleveland Plain Dealer to Slash Newsroom Staff by One-Third

5 Dec

Plain Dealer

OWNERS OF THE Cleveland Plain Dealer have announced plans to gut the newsroom staff by one-third — 58 positions from a newsroom of 168. The number of days the paper is published might be cut, too.

If that playbook sounds familiar, it should — the owner is Advance Publications, the same outfit that laid off some 600 people at the New Orleans Times Picayune and its three papers in Alabama, and ended daily publication.

[After Advance announced that plan, Digital First CEO John Paton wrote “In Defense of the Times-Picayune.”]

Staff at the Plain Dealer knew cuts were coming and started a “Save the Plain Dealer” campaign | Facebook page. There also is an online petition at change.org.

In a post on the Facebook page, organizers of the campaign say:

Friends and supporters, we wanted to let you know that The Plain Dealer has told the Guild it plans to reduce the number of Guild members in the newsroom to 110 next year. Guild members are the heart of the paper. They report, photograph, copyedit, design, draw, create graphics, archive information, edit and so much more. The reductions, which represent about 1/3 of our membership, would be devastating to the news-gathering operation.

One a Day Keeps Ignorance at Bay

Christine Haughney wrote a good piece about the Plain Dealer’s situation in the New York Times’ Media Decoder blog, including this hoppy tidbit:

Among the more lively efforts to stave off a reduction in the print schedule is a “Save The Plain Dealer” party planned for Thursday night at the Market Garden Brewery and Distillery. The brewery is releasing a new beer, 7-Day Lager, which it says is “best when enjoyed daily, because one a day keeps ignorance at bay.”

The Post’s iPad Ski Guide Gets Some Props

30 Nov
The Denver Post

The Denver Post

IN CASE YOU missed it, The Denver Post released a really nice iPad edition of the Ski Guide that got a good review from Talking New Media, which calls it “by far the best thing I’ve seen out of MediaNews Group or the Journal Register Company.”

And for those who don’t have in iPad, the post has a video of the app in action — did I already say it’s really nice?

The site also published an update with more “insider” information later Nov. 27:

I think their effort is far more interesting and exciting now that I know more what they are doing in Denver.

And a tip of the hat to Post editor Greg Moore for posting the link to the review on The Water Cooler.

Here’s a link to the free Ski Guide app on iTunes LINK

The Guild is Looking for a Few Good Stewards

29 Nov

A ONE DAY training session for current union stewards and those who would like to become a steward is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Communication Workers of America District 7 office at 8085 E. Prentice Ave. in Greenwood Village (I-25 and Belleview Avenue). Lost-time pay will be available for anyone wishing to attend the training.

If you are interested in attending, please contact the Denver Newspaper Guild office at 303-595-9818 or dng@denvernewspaperguild.org by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30.

From the FAQs section of the DNG website:

What is a Steward?
Stewards are employees who volunteer their help to make sure the contract is followed. They do this by answering your questions, helping you find solutions to problems and representing you in meetings with your managers. Wondering what your rights and responsibilities are? Check with a steward. They should be your first contact if you have a problem on the job.

When Should I Ask a Steward to Represent Me?
You have the right to have a steward present at any meeting that could affect your relationship with the company — whether it is a disciplinary meeting or not. If a manager asks to speak with you in private, ask a steward to go with you. Why? Not because you can’t stand up for yourself, but because a steward standing beside you makes you a stronger employee, one who won’t be taken advantage of, intimidated, or treated inappropriately. A steward also can help you and your manager work out solutions to problems. Managers know you have the right to a steward, and cannot prevent you from exercising that right. You will find that encounters with managers are far more fair and productive when a steward is present. If you go into a manager’s office alone, it’s your word against theirs if any information from that meeting sparks an issue.

For more information on union stewards, click here.