Get behind Guild; create more waves

Dateline: Tue 06 Dec 2011

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:

Friends,

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.

In thanks,

Bobby

Comments

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I'm always with organized labor.

I hope that part of the debate is about the newspaper becoming a comic book - something to laugh at way too often.

Like the recent big spread (I think it was front page) on the soul-wrenching question of the day with the banner headline:

"What Can We Expect from Madonna's Super Bowl Performance?"

I know that I have been spending a lot of time grappling with this urgent issue, along with other great thinkers and philosophers of our time.

2011-12-06 13:17:21

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I've never crossed a picket line in my life. When Meijer came to town two decades ago, their publicly-stated goal was to bust the UFCW. They maintained pickets for a long time. I have never visited Meijer as a result, and I won't now.

If future rallies are held, please let us know in time, Bobby.

The hardline nonsense from the Gannett attorney is ridiculous. Please publlish his name. We can email him.
I hate bullies.

2011-12-06 15:42:57

ruthholl [Member] said:

I have asked for the name of the Guild attorney.

2011-12-06 17:14:58

hendy [Member] said:

Yay, and more power to 'em. Rattle a few cages. It's better than bottling up the frustration... 'cause Gannett is going to swat the fly, then go back to the stock ticker.

2011-12-06 18:05:18

ruthholl [Member] said:

TTT his name is Scott Feldman. He was mentioned in this blog Oct. 21, in a letter from Bobby King sent to Guild. Senior counsel for Gannett.
Thanks to Bobby King for this info.

2011-12-07 12:10:19

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I've brought this up here before. And after reading an article about the Guild's protest just now, I am going to bring it up again.

The treatment of veteran public school teachers in this state is no less pathetic than the treatment of these Star employees. Yes, there needs to be improvement in the schools and yes, lousy teachers should be weeded out.

But that is not what the current war on Indiana's teachers is about. It's about money. It's about hiring two new kids out of college (and in the future many without being required to have teaching degrees thanks to Mitch and Co.) and finding bogus reasons to get rid of those "highly paid" older teachers. Two for the price of one, right?
And tell me, where is a 55-year-old teacher with a master's degree in education and 30-plus years of experience going to find another decent-paying job after getting the pink slip from IPS or other Indiana school districts?

Here's the comment I just posted on Nuvo:

"I am always on the side of organized workers against 'The Man.' "

I do, however, wish that these same Star union people had supported Indiana teachers' unions last winter when those unions were basically being dismantled by the far-right-wing Republican Indiana state government. The Star's coverage of public teacher protests in Indianapolis at that time was token at best."

I do support any union fighting corporate greed, but can't get rid of the feeling that this union (the Guild) has no real interest in solidarity with any OTHER unions in Indiana. And, right or wrong, that makes me less than enthusiastic about their efforts.

2011-12-07 13:56:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Need more Feldman info please Ruthie. I googled--oe is a collections whore, and theb other is an ambulance chaser. I doubt either is the same guy.

Or maybe....

Here's another tactic that might work: if you own anyh Gannett stock (I do, through a mutual fund), write their Shareholder Relations Department. By rule, they have to respond to you.

I'm still trying to wrap lmy brain around writers getting 2-3 stories a week published. But bargaining-table bullies piss me of fto no end. This Feldman jerk needs brought down a notch or two.

Or four.



2011-12-07 15:06:52

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

Rock 'n roll. God bless you guys.

2011-12-07 20:05:01

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