That awful Guild contract

Dateline: Sat 22 Aug 2009

Voting is Tuesday on the draconian proposed contract for the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild. The contract might as well have been written by Gannett, because everything favors the company, and nothing is good for employees of the Indianapolis Star.

Following is a summary of the issue provided by the Guild, along with a list of frequently asked questions and answers:


"From: Indy NewsGuild70 []
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 7:53 PM
To: Annis, Robert; Carpenter, DuJuan; Halladay, Sylvia; Jackson, Michael;
Ooley, Geoff; Pointer, Michael; Rudavsky, Shari; Ryckaert, Vic; Schmitz, Jay;
Spalding, Tom; Tuohy, John; Wolf, Judy; Yates, Adam
Subject: * E-inkling *CONFIDENTIAL * FAQ on the Aug. 25 vote; absentee
request deadline is Friday; last Q&A is Aug. 23 *

Greetings to all Indy News Guild members:

TIMELINE: The vote on a contract is coming up! If you want to vote absentee,
the deadline to request a ballot to mail is THIS Friday, August 21. And don't
forget the second of our informational Q&As, set for 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23
at the Musicians Hall. The vote will be held from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday,
Aug. 25

THE DEAL: The Guild negotiations committee, after nearly 10 months of
off-and-on contract talks, reached a tentative agreement on a two-year
contract that we agreed to take to duespayers for a vote on Aug. 25.
It is important to emphasize that we feel that it is the "best deal"
that could be reached at this time. It isn't a great package, but it's the
one that does the least amount of damage.

WHAT IS THE DEAL?: It's a counter-proposal to the company's harsh "last, best
and final offer" issued by Gannett to the Guild on July 15 following our 97-9
"no" vote on June 30. This deal was forged by the Guild's negotiating
committee with guidance from the federal mediator who attended negotiating
sessions Aug. 6 and 7.


+ Permanent pay cut of 10 percent beginning Aug. 30 for all
Guild-represented employees. Employees whose pay would drop below the federal
minimum wage with a 10 percent pay cut will be reduced only to the federal
minimum wage.

+ A wage freeze; no pay increases for the term of the contract (two
years from date of signing.)

+ Minimum rates of pay steps remain in the contract but are reduced 10
percent and go "dormant" until 2011. Employees in the steps will not receive
their automatic step increases during the term of the contract.

+ Merit pool language remains in the contract but goes dormant. No
merit pay increases for Guild-represented employees for the term of the

+ Regarding advertorial content, this deal adds language to allow the
Publisher flexibility to assign Guild members "traditional and
non-traditional tasks" and requires the Publisher to "be cognizant of and
sensitive to its policy relating to ethics and conflicts of interest."

+ In the event of layoffs, the company will consider seniority rights
first in regard to staff reductions. In addition, individual skills and
abilities and an employee's performance and disciplinary history will be
considered. The Guild gives up the right to grieve or seek arbitration on
individual layoffs, but we do have the right to grieve and arbitrate if the
company ignores seniority or fails to use the criteria properly overall.

+ Three positions currently covered by the Guild contract
(Graphics/Design: Day Design Editor, Night Design Editor; Digital
Central: Calendar Editor) become exempt from all provisions of the contract.

+ 10 positions become exempt from the overtime provision but still are
covered by all other provisions of the contract (Cartoonist, Sports
Columnist, Public Service Columnist, Conversations Central Columnist, On The
Town Columnist, IU Sports Beat, Motor Sports Beat, Pacers Beat, Colts Beat,
Sports Special Projects Beat.)

+ On roundtrips of 100 miles or more, if an employee requests to use
his/her own car rather than a company vehicle, the company will reimburse for
actual fuel expenses only rather than the company's fixed mileage rate.

+ The paraprofessional job designation will cover calendar clerks,
production liaisons and similar positions. Paraprofessionals may write
stories of an uncomplicated nature.

+ Changes the length of time the company has to give another day off
to employees whose regular day off falls on a holiday from two weeks to any
day during the week of the holiday or the following 21 days.

In addition to these contract changes, the arbitration on behalf of seven
members laid off in December, 2008, will be settled with each of the seven
receiving a confidential monetary settlement from the company. The company
has agreed to allow the grievances relating to the most recent layoffs in
July to proceed. We are disclosing this amount in our information sessions,
but not publicly.

All other provisions of the current contract are unchanged -- including such
rights as requesting that you pull a byline off y


If the Guild membership rejects the contract proposal, the Guild's
arbitration on behalf of seven employees laid off in December would continue.
However, this is what the company could do if the contract proposal is

Scenario One

The company could issue the same Last, Best and Final (LBF) offer as we saw
on July 15. The company probably would not be willing to negotiate many (if
any) changes to this proposal. If that LBF proposal is rejected or if we
don't agree to the LBF, they could claim impasse at that time and issue new
work rules based on the LBF. These could include any or all of the following:

+ Company could make permanent pay cut of up to 12 percent for all
Guild-represented employees beginning when the work rules are issued.
Employees whose pay would drop below the federal minimum wage with a
12 percent pay cut could be reduced only to the federal minimum wage.

+ The company could issue work rules that include the outsourcing
language in this last, best and final offer. The language states: "The
Employer shall also have the right to transfer work to employees, firms or
companies outside the Employer, provided that 30 days advance notice is given
to the Union and the Union is given the opportunity to discuss the transfer
during such period. At the end of the 30 day notice/discussion period, the
Employer may effectuate the transfer of work."

+ New work rules could put pay freeze in effect and stipulate any
future pay increases would be solely at the discretion of the company and
individual supervisors.

+ Minimum rates of pay steps could remain, but employees would not
receive step increases.

+ Merit pool language that outlines rules for merit pay increases
could be eliminated rather than simply going dormant for the term of the

+ Section on previous experience being used to determine an employee's
pay classifications could be eliminated.

+ Company could issue work rules that allow employees to be removed
from their jobs and given a lower paying position at the discretion of the

+ Regarding advertorial content, the company could issue language
allowing the Publisher flexibility to assign Guild members "traditional and
non-traditional tasks." Requires the Publisher to "be cognizant of and
sensitive to its policy relating to ethics and conflicts of interest." [this
is the same as a "yes" vote]

+ In the event of layoffs, the company's LBF would not require
seniority to be considered first in regard to staff reductions. The rules
could say seniority, individual skills and abilities and an employee's
performance and disciplinary history would be considered in no particular
order. The Guild would not be able to grieve or seek arbitration on
individual layoffs, but could grieve and arbitrate the failure to follow the
provisions overall.

Scenario Two

A likely variation of scenario 1 is that the company could give us a LBF that
is worse than the one they gave us on July 15. It could include a larger pay
cut (the company sought a 15 percent pay cut during negotiations in April)
and other regressions. If this LBF is rejected, the result would be the same:
the company could declare impasse and issue new work rules based on this
worse LBF.

Q: What happens if we go to impasse?
A: Impasse is a situation where neither party is willing to make any more
moves toward the other party's position. The company is not likely to move
much, if at all, from this point forward. By issuing a LBF proposal, the
company positions itself so it can make revisions but doesn't have to. We can
only forestall impasse by making a series of moves in their direction, but
that can only go on for a short period before we either have to agree to
their package, or tell them we have no more moves to make.

Q: What the Guild would do if that happened?
A: Our position is very likely going to be that impasse was reached
prematurely, given our history of bargaining for much longer periods than
seven months and considering that we didn't thoroughly discuss all of the new
proposals that were included in the company's LBF. We would seek to obtain
all relevant information about whatever offer is on the table. That would
forestall impasse for a short period but most likely will simply set up a
legal fight over whether that information is relevant or not. If the company
says it is not relevant and proceeds to impasse, we would of course file
Unfair Labor Practice charges, but the charges will take some time to
litigate. In the meantime, the company may proceed as if the impasse is
legitimate and post new working conditions based on its LBF.

Q: What are "Posted working conditions?"
A: The company can choose to impose any or all of its LBF if impasse is
reached. It does not have to impose all of it. Therefore, we are unlikely to
see things imposed that are beneficial to us. More likely, they will stick us
with things like the wage cuts (probably 12% or more, not 10%), the
advertorial language, weekly OT instead of daily OT, and the like. It is
likely the outsourcing and a weaker seniority/layoff provision would also be
in the mix. If we are at impasse, the arbitration will proceed, but
Guild-represented employees will be working under worse conditions. And we
would not be able to arbitrate any future grievances that might develop under
those posted conditions.

Q: What would happen after impasse and posted working conditions?
A: The Guild would have to get the company to come back to the bargaining
table to negotiate a fair contract. Individual members should be prepared for
a long fight. As points of reference, the Guild in Dayton (a Cox newspaper)
has been working under posted conditions for more than two years. The Guild
in Albany (a Hearst paper) went to impasse earlier this year. The Guild in
Rochester (a Gannett paper) went more than 14 years without a contract before
reaching an agreement last year.

To fight impasse, members must be prepared to participate in a series of
visible actions inside and outside of the paper to put pressure on
management. In addition, members would have to be ready for the likelihood
that the Guild would have to initiate some kind of economic pressure (meaning
boycotts or even strike) in order to get the company back to the table. None
of those things can be done without membership support.

Other questions you might have

Q) What is the local's position on the proposal - vote for it or against it?
A) It must be made clear that the committee believes that this is the best
deal that can be had. The committee did not take a position on whether
members should vote yes or no. It is up to each member to decide whether to
accept the contract and settle the arbitration on behalf of seven Guild
members laid off in December, or reject the contract and continue the

Q) What is the difference in a 10% voluntary pay cut versus a 12% involuntary
A) 2 percent over two year's time should come out to a little under $400,000
that we were able to keep for the people on our side, in getting the pay cut
from 12 percent to 10 percent.

Q) What does the international think of this deal?
A) The contracts committee of The Newspaper Guild has reviewed the
Indianapolis Guild's tentative contract agreement with the company and
recommends approval for a ratification vote by the membership. The
leadership, they say, told us we should be commended on holding the line on
its positions which resulted in a better agreement than either the April TA,
the company's July final or what could have been imposed had the parties
reached impasse. By faithfully trying to negotiate since late winter, we
stalled by 5 months a double-digit wage cut.

Q) If I have a performance evaluation tied to my hire date, can the company
not give me a raise if the contract passes?
A) The contract goes into effect Aug. 30, so any reviews prior to that date
must be honored.

Q) What if the vote is no?
A) The Indy Guild will continue to fight on your behalf and try to convince
the company to negotiate a fairer deal."



Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Damn, Ruthie. A truly depressing post. Best of luck to the Guild members. My thoughts are with you.

And, a plea in advance: can we please refrain from the kind of posts that typically come from this type of news? The Eugene-Pulliam-Loved-everyone posts?

Because those of us who were mere readers of the ESP product weren't entirely thrilled with his editorial witch-hunts.

But I loved me some Ben Cole. And Ed Ziegner. And many more.

If I were a member I'd vote no. It's a close call, but at some point, you ahve to put your flag on the terra firma and say: "No More. This is where it stops."

2009-08-22 14:49:00

brian [unverified] said:

This is what you get when you have to bargain from a weakened position. The newspaper business isn't long for this world, or at least it looks that way. I'd vote no and continue looking for a new job. If you're voting no, and just starting to look, you may actually be a small part of the reason the guild has no teeth now.

2009-08-23 00:18:09

hendy [unverified] said:

Am I missing something here, or is the 'confidential' in the subject of the email important here?

2009-08-23 20:30:25

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy, I saw "Conidential" too, ut I trust Ruthie's judgment in releasing it.

After I read it, I can see how Gannett wouldn't want it to be seen anywhere in the civilized world. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I was.

And I'm getting kinda old to be naive.

2009-08-24 08:38:37

ruthholl [Member] said:

On the confidential language, I need to ask some questions. I am guessing the Guild wanted to keep this an in-house discussion and not have it get to management. But I'll ask. I had thought it was on the Inkling website; it was not. It was merely circulated to Guild members.
The Sunday meetings have been attended by some former employees, as well as current employees, so the word is out. Pretty hard to keep this vote quiet.

2009-08-24 12:14:50

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Let me second Brian's advice: "I'd vote no and continue looking for a new job."

There's no future at <I>The Star</I> -- unless you enjoy ulcers and anxiety attacks!

The days of Pulliam paternalism are long, long gone! (Remember when reporters used to get a $50 bonus on ECP's birthday?)

2009-08-24 13:13:45

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"The days of Pulliam paternalism are long, long gone! (Remember when reporters used to get a $50 bonus on ECP's birthday?)"

This is a relevant point, I think.

I remember 20 years ago when I was working at a small, daily paper - putting in 70-hour work weeks and working six and seven days a week. At that time, I was told by a friend of a Star sportswriting columnist that he bragged about cranking out a column in a couple of hours and then going out and playing golf for the rest of the "workday."

Over the years, I have heard many such stories about "Pulliam paternalism."

This is certainly not to say that I support the current treatment of people working at The Star. It is also not an inference that all folks who worked at The Star in the Pulliam days had cushy jobs.

2009-08-24 16:00:41

Tom Spalding [unverified] said:

Ruth, you portend to have the Guild's best interests in mind, yet you post a confidential memo from the Guild that included information that is not in the best interests of the union for the company to know. We disclose 99% of our affairs via the Web. I believe in transparency. But on our one e-mail marked confidential -- due to some really candid scenarios -- you post it verbatim? This tells me you are not interested in the fight of "good" vs. "evil" but simply the act of fighting itself. I'm really disappointed in you.

== Tom Spalding, Guild president

2009-08-24 16:39:36

ruthholl [Member] said:

The email came to me from a former employee and was obviously being circulated.
If it is out there for former employees to see, and it was sent to me, a former employee, it is obviously of interest to us. For you to assume we don't have a stake in the future of the Star is off-putting and frankly, wrong-headed.
I am sorry you are disappointed, but transparency is of the essence.
In my view, this is a fight that needs to be taken "to the streets."
The Guild has to take off the white gloves and involve the public in its battle. The public includes not only former employees and Guild members, but the people at large.
I am disappointed that you are so shy in revealing the fight of good vs. evil, no quotation marks needed, which is exactly what this is about.
Good luck.

2009-08-24 20:12:09

ConcernedStaffer [Member] said:

The guild has no strength and it is very obvious from the offer that is on the table. The company has ignored previous contract points, so why exactly won't they continue to do the same with the latest contract proposal if accepted?

I'd rather take my chances on their continued willfulness to ignore the contract and not give back several years of earned pay increases. If they make our work conditions WORSE (which I'm sure they will), they will do so -- with or without this lousy contract proposal.

I appreciate the efforts of the guild and the losing battle -- but I feel like everyone is ready to fall on their own swords.

As a tenured employee, I'm extremely bitter at the upper management, despite being a "model" employee. Your loyalty and work ethic is not rewarded. Of course, this is not a surprise.

I hope that the union body of members vote this pathetic contract offer down.

2009-08-25 02:22:48

Comments are closed.


or Register


Syndicate Blog