The contract is not worth spit; vote it down

Dateline: Mon 24 Aug 2009

Tuesday will be a day of reckoning for employees of the Indianapolis Star. Guild members will vote on the merits of a tentative contract agreement reached after 10 months of futile and depressing talks.

Guild members have no choice, really. They must stand up to Gannett's endless round of wage cuts and other slings and arrows imposed by management, and they must vote "NO." They must proceed to fight the power in court and in a strenuous public relations campaign.

Gannett is making money. The company has no justification for taking 10 percent of salaries of Indianapolis Star Guild employees, which is what they would do under this contract -- a 10 percent pay cut for two years.

The New York Times reported Aug. 12 that another Gannett newspaper, the Journal News in Westchester, N.Y.,  cut more than 70 jobs and is demanding that all 288 of its news and ad employees re-apply for their jobs.

But the last paragraph of the story shows that Gannett continues to rack up profits:

"...Gannett has been slashing costs aggressively, including cutting thousands of jobs. That led to a second-quarter profit of $70.5 million. There was another bright spot in that report: Gannett executives said in a conference call with analysts that the advertising market had improved in June and July."

Besides the 10 percent pay cut, under the contract proposal, Star workers will face a wage freeze and dormancy in the merit pool language. And, the publisher will have the authority to assign Guild members advertorial writing/editing etc. tasks. The list of insults goes on.

But the most demoralzing part of the scenario is that the seven workers laid off last winter would be dismissed with tiny settlements, packages of $2,000 to $2,500. The amounts are simply nothing and shameless.

Do not sell out the contract for $2,500. Do not throw your former colleagues under the bus.

This does not mean there are not options. There are ALWAYS OPTIONS.

The Guild, after voting down this piece of garbage, should aggressively recruit new members on the basis of its strengths. In the last round of layoffs, managers were dismissed without severance pay; managers are not covered by the Guild contract. But Guild employees did receive what was their legal due. Use this point to drive home the notion that there is strength in numbers and solidarity in union.

Promote Guild membership, back the Guild and, most of all, expose Gannett's shenanigans for all the world to see.

Vote the contract down, continue to fight for the December Seven and take this brawl to a public arena.

Will it be easy? No. The set-up is a nightmare; federal law is written to protect employers. The company can impose terms and make working conditions worse.

But life with Gannett is a slippery slope; make this deal, and you make a deal with the devil.

It is time to stand up and say NO.









Sylvia Halladay [unverified] said:

I disagree - I think it is better for the people still left in the building to still have some sort of a contract, even a weak one. It is a bad thing to be idealistic enough to vote a contract down, but not idealistic enough to do the very real work to get something better. If you are still there, don't vote this down unless you have a pretty solid plan on how to convince the company to give you something better. If you want work done and know what it should be, look in the mirror to see who should do it. Do not expect for "the union" to do this or that, and think that that's going to be someone else - the union is the people in it. There might be only so much you have the ability to do at this time. Do not feel guilty for not having the ability to do everything in the world. That's false guilt. You do what you can. It's somewhat of a rarity to have a contract at all. Impasse is not better. If you read the old contracts, all the ones for many, many years were worse than whatever came before it. That is not something new. A weak contract is better than none at all. Don't burn down the building if you're still in it.

-Sylvia Halladay
former Star librarian and guild secretary, laid off in July
(no relation to Ruth Holladay)

2009-08-24 17:06:29

ruthholl [Member] said:

Under the old rules, it's true: a weak contract was better than none at all. Sort of. What I saw during my years at the paper was most people ignoring the Guild, or being token members, and trusting "management" to take care of them, even bragging about it, as in "I'm a company man/woman..." and "It's Gene Pulliam's train; he can play with it anyway he wants."
That attitude undermined the Guild, but nobody had to worry too much, because it was a game of gentlemen's negotiations. You gave, he gave. True, over time, the concessions were more worker-related, but there was still a trust relationship on the part of many people -- they had jobs for life, etc. That old saw.
Gannett is a whole different story. I would say the building is already on fire. I read Gannettoid this morning; the apparent planned outsourcing of advertising/graphic design/production people indicates more devastation, more job loss. This company, by some forecasts, will not exist as we know it by 2011; it has too much debt coming due. Careerbuilder is Gannett's most successful enterprise. These people fundamentally do not care about running newspapers; they care about making money. They will do anything to make money.Period.
Voting no, I agree, is an idealistic stand, and maybe it is impractical. But it seems to be a case of damned if you do/damned if you don't. So why not, just once, tell the company to stick it?
And for people with young children and families to support, I understand. It's like Sophie's Choice; it must feel impossible.
I just happen to believe in an old rule of therapy -- it's when you think you have no options that you are truly screwed. There are options. This is not life and death; there are other jobs. Maybe they suck, maybe they pay even less, maybe they are in another city. Maybe this is the wakeup call we need, in order to start the death knell tolling for corporate cheats, and give birth to a new kind of newspaper/journalism.
But yes, in the end, everyone has to vote their conscience, and Sylvia's argument states that position very well.
I fully expect the contract to pass, because, sad to say, people need jobs. I also fully expect more jobs to be lost. As one former colleague said, the best people can do is absolutely refuse to work more than the 40 hours for which you are being paid, or whatever, and look for another position. Because, under Gannett, it's probably going to happen: you will lose your job...even if they stay in newspapers, they'll want someone cheaper, younger, more disposable.
So whatever you choose, good luck, and take the plunge with eyes wide open.

2009-08-24 18:24:07

ellen mckinney [unverified] said:

i am very disappointed that a federal "mediator" didn't call gannett out on its treatment of employees past and present. asking people to give up a decade or more of wage gains while being worked like slaves at a profitable newspaper is just plain wrong.

i left "voluntarily" in december because i was warned how ugly the future was going to be. i only hope that those who left involuntarily at that time, and more recently, will get better treatment from arbitration.

things like the unfair balance of power in the workplace happen when rank-and-file people vote against their own interests because they are fed lies. the nlrb should protect workers, but there still are too many bushies running it.

and if true health-care reform goes down the tubes, it will be for the same reason -- all the sheeple who vote for the conservatives who line their pockets with corporate donations and then, with straight faces, tell voters that the democrats want "death panels" to kill grandma.

i wouldn't dream of advising anyone on how to vote. with this heinous contract "offer," that's like advising someone on whether to drink the cyanide kool-aid or the arsenic kool-aid. all i can do is offer my sympathies and best wishes.

2009-08-24 20:19:21

ruthholl [Member] said:

"things like the unfair balance of power in the workplace happen when rank-and-file people vote against their own interests because they are fed lies."

This is the truth. Expose the lies, expose Gannett.

There is not much hope, but if nothing else, people can vote for what is right. You can vote against this continual corporate crusade against working-class people. You can vote for your integrity, your worth, your beliefs.

Do not let Gannett win. Vote for yourselves, which means: vote against Gannett's lousy draining people-sucking policies.

Don't let them win; don't let them take 7 colleagues down. It will be you next. "There but for the grace of God, go we."

Vote No.

2009-08-24 21:37:38

EdS [unverified] said:

If the folks who are left at the Star were actually able stand up for themselves they would have left that sweatshop voluntarily long ago. They can prove me wrong with their vote, but I doubt that will happen.

2009-08-25 07:41:46

VladtheImpaler [unverified] said:

Amen, Ruth. All working at Gannett, especially the more "tenured", will be escorted out of the building eventually. Might as well go down swinging at the Wall Street thug. Have some dignity. Like men and women.

2009-08-25 07:43:23

John Flora [unverified] said:

As a 33-year reporter for The News and The Star who walked away from Gannett in October, 2000, I can tell you life after Gannett is fabulous.
Stop quibbling over the fine points of your slavery and vote with your feet. The Star stopped being a newspaper and became a newspaper factory long ago.
Gannett has leverage on you because you are psychologically "stuck" and think this is the only job you can ever have.
I assure you, it is not.
Be brave, think a new thought and get out.
Time is the only irreplaceable commodity that we have. Why waste it being miserable? Living well truly is the best revenge.
End of rant.

2009-08-25 10:07:15

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

John - Sounds to me like you said it all.

2009-08-25 10:59:14

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