A week ago last Wednesday, the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild staged an unprecedented rally across from its building at 307 N. Pennsylvania in an effort to educate the public about the abuses practiced against employees by Gannett.
According to Guild prez Bobby King, the rally was well-received. Here's his update:
In the spirit of encouragement, I wanted to share with you some of the things that have been flowing back to me in the last few days since our rally/protest on The Star’s doorstep on Wednesday.
The most obvious, of course, is the media attention. We received coverage from all four local TV stations. NUVO was there and is working on a story for its next edition. WTLC radio host Amos Brown was there and later tweeted that what we did was “unprecedented” among white collar workers in the city. Abdul Hakim-Shabazz (formerly of Abdul in the Morning fame) did 6 minutes of audio for his popular blog, indianabarrister.com, and wrote a lengthy post about us. Abdul prides himself for his conservative Republican ideals and has never been known to be a cheerleader for labor. But he wrote that he likes what we’re doing, “God Bless Em! for protesting.”
“God Bless Em! for protesting.”
This burst of attention sent our message in far flung directions. Jill Phillips (employee, Guild member) received several calls Thursday morning in the newsroom from people wanting to speak to editors about what’s going on at The Star. These are folks who responded to the media and found a Star phone number we’ve never publicized. One woman left a message for me saying she wanted to start a petition drive on our behalf. A group of retired Star-News journalists saw what we did and asked me to speak to them this week about our cause. We also heard reports from people with no journalism connections talking about this around the community -- in local restaurants. Dan McFeely even reports that our actions were the topic of discussion during the Carmel tour of historic homes that he attended.
Then there was what the rally itself accomplished. Indianapolis City-Councilwoman Joanne Sanders was there and -- though sometimes she’s had a bone to pick with The Star for editorial coverage -- said she found the rally inspiring. She was unaware of what we were up against. And though she is about to leave the council, she expressed some interest in bringing our cause to the attention of the other councilors. Indiana AFL-CIO president Nancy Guyott, who briefly spoke at the rally, liked what she saw and said her organization would support (i.e. send people) future rallies we hold.
Of course, what we’re all the most interested in is what effect this has will have on the company and its bargaining position. For starters, an editor I spoke with who was in the newsroom midday Wednesday said the message from the chanting and the bullhorn was coming through loud and clear. I saw publisher Karen Crotchfelt on Friday and suffice it to say she was well aware -- and surprised -- at the scope of our effort Wednesday. Then there was what happened at the bargaining table.
I would like to say that in the wake of our rally the company folded its tent immediately and gave us everything we’ve been asking for. But our experienced liaison to the Newspaper Guild of America said it doesn’t work that way. Such actions take some time to have their full effect. And repeated actions help reinforce the point.
As such, both sides remained far apart on money and on outsourcing. However, I will tell you this: During the last three months, Gannett’s attorney has tried to bully our bargaining team, ridiculing us and insulting us and otherwise doing whatever he could to disrespect us. But the two days of talks we had this week -- on the heels of our rally -- were the two most productive days of talks so far. We even made some progress toward an agreement that would specifically protect our journalists from having to do advertorial work, which has been on a steady march toward the newsroom of late.
The only reason I can give to explain the more constructive tone was what you did on Wednesday at our rally. From the standpoint of being a member of your bargaining team, I can honestly say that I felt like your actions gave us more credibility at the table. To a certain degree, the company’s attorney has been trying to make like our uprising and our disgust with Gannett has been confined to your leadership. Your very loud presence on the sidewalk showed dispelled that myth quite completely. Out Guild was united with one voice. It was a sweet sound. I won’t forget it for a while. I’m sure the company’s leadership feels the same way.
We will need you to raise your voices again. Your show of strength has given us a fighting chance. Stay tuned for the next call to action.