Guild is in there battling, as always

Dateline: Thu 14 Aug 2014

Here is an update from what sounds like an extremely tough week of negotiations. The voice is that of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild.


We essentially fought the company to a standstill.

The Guild fended off the company’s most odious contract proposals on severance pay but had to accept a new 2-year deal that brings no guarantees of wage increases. Our dues payers must vote on the ratification of the contract. Details to come.

The agreement Wednesday afternoon came just a few hours after a midday meeting of Guild members where passions were high and – with no agreement in sight – we were talking street protests.

From the sentiments shared at that meeting, the Guild’s bargaining team found a pathway to a deal – we would drop our pay raise request in order to kill the company’s proposal to do away with severance pay for workers fired after being deemed poor performers.

This was important because so many of you said that proposal could easily be used by the company to make it easier and cheaper to fire folks who have fallen out of favor. It was also increasingly clear the company would not budge on wages, raising the prospects of an ugly stalemate and potentially an impasse.

Several aspects of this deal related to making the best of a difficult situation. Some examples:
*The company will begin its job cuts by seeking people willing to accept voluntary layoffs. Those accepted will get normal severance payments but also health insurance coverage during the severance.

*Severance and health care coverage will also apply to employees not chosen for jobs in the new organizational chart.

*Downtown building service workers whose jobs will disappear because of the move to Circle Center Mall will get an additional four weeks of severance pay.

The Guild also fended off the company’s proposal to use temp workers on an unlimited basis. Previously, the contract limited temps to three months, six if the Guild agreed to an extension. As a compromise, we agreed to allow temps to be employed with the company for one year.

There were some other language revisions on advanced notification before layoffs, on pay scale minimums and on job titles that will reflect the new reorganization.

We know that the victories here were mainly the defensive kind. But in such a challenging environment for newspapers your show of support over these many months – and especially in these final days – helped us emerge in a better position than we might have. We’re also quite convinced that, compared with other Gannett papers without Guilds, the workers whose jobs are about to disappear will fare much better.

These next few weeks – as the reorganization takes hold – promise to be very difficult, even painful. But the lesson from these negotiations is that we are much stronger when we hang together.

Most striking in these final days was how selfless our members were. Those whose tenure here appears to be ending were still concerned about the need for wage increases for the workers who will remain. Those who expect to be here when the dust settles were concerned about preserving the severance for those more vulnerable. It was an uncommon level of altruism, and we were humbled by it.

Not to be overlooked are the countless hours the Guild bargaining team put into this endeavor. Jill Disis, Michael Campbell and Bob Scheer took part at different points. These past three days of marathon sessions involved Jill Phillips, Tony Cook, DuJuan Carpenter, Michael Pointer, John Russell and TNG sector representative Jay Schmitz. They represented you passionately and aggressively. They sacrificed long hours from their jobs and their families. It was a privilege to work with them.

Finally, we know some aspects of mobilizing sometimes feel silly. How many Fridays can one wear red? How many helium-filled balloons does it take to get a decent contract? But we know for a fact that, in the end, your willingness to show your colors made it clear to management that we were united, and that the Guild wasn’t to be taken lightly.

We hope that as many of you as possible will, along with your families, join us this Sunday for our outing at the Indians game at Victory Field. After such a heavy week, let’s enjoy a day of fun at the ballpark. See Vic Ryckaert for tickets.


Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Interesting to see all the "severance is a right, not charity" posters in The Star city room today.

2014-08-14 20:19:41

Abe Aamidor [unverified] said:

Realistically, giving up the right to strike years ago was the death knell for the union. Additionally, arbitration of major grievances is a hoax - in the past, at least, the company always demanded that all outstanding grievances and arbs be dropped before they'd sign a new contract. This was a concession I can say I always strongly advised against accepting when I was union president in the mid-2000s, and v-p before that, but I was no dictator. As far as union membership in an open shop environment goes - that obviously weakens unions everywhere. But I can tell you this: The two biggest reasons people gave for not joining the union (among those who were willing to state a reason) were, one, the problem of seniority, as many less senior and younger employees hate seniority, knowing full well they probably wouldn't be making a life-long commitment to the paper anyway; and a few protested that the union "protects bad employees." To the latter point all I could say is that the union protects due process and seeks to enforce the CBA, and in fact I can say the good efforts of myself, Sylvia Halladay, Tom Spalding, Vic R., and others before us such as John O'Neill, Marc Allan at least were able to protect some employees from unjust firings.

2014-08-16 09:09:01

Christopher Lloyd [unverified] said:

Abe's dead-on. The probably with the Indy News Guild was never that it was too powerful or arrogant, but rather that it lacked the teeth to enforce the measures of the contract.

(When I moved from management to non-exempt, I paid my guild dues and was proud to do so.)

Gannett always did an end-round around the bylaws, and used contract negotiations to void any outstanding complaints.

When I was RIF'd, I asked Dennis R. how he could select me when there were many people with less seniority in my department (not to mention others RIF'd much senior to me). I'll never forget his reply: "The lawyers have told us we can do it this way."

And he was right.

2014-08-18 10:42:56

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