"Guild: 'Indy Star' Should Have Sought Layoff Volunteers
By Joe Strupp
Published: October 09, 2008 11:50 AM ET
NEW YORK Should The Indianapolis Star have asked for volunteers before announcing specific layoffs last August? The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild thinks so.
At least in the case of five of its members that the union claims were wrongly terminated.
"There would have been volunteers, I know of three for sure," Guild President Abe Aamidor contends. "There were several others who were thinking about it."
Aamidor's comments followed this week's decision by the guild to formally seek arbitration in the layoff of five newsroom employees.
Aamidor said the Aug. 19 layoff announcement of 23 Star employees, including seven newsroom staffers, did not follow a seniority provision in the contract. He said that would have protected five of the newsroom employees who were let go.
"Layoffs have to be by seniority," he said of the three-year guild agreement that expires at the end of 2008.
The disputed layoffs include sports copy editor Mark Morrow, designer Mark Koenig, picture editor Greg Fisher, and non-reporter newsroom staffers Kathleen Singleton and Jonathon LaRosa. "Other people were hired more recently than them," Aamidor has said. "There are people who have been working at the paper for less time."((
A guild release on the arbitration request, filed Tuesday, added that a voluntary request for layoffs also would have made a difference: "In August, and in virtually every meeting we have had with management, the Guild implored the company to explore the idea of 'volunteers' for the impending layoffs. We know of coworkers who are interested in an early exit, and who wanted to spare other employees who are earlier in their careers and want to stay."
Editor Dennis Ryerson declined comment Thursday. Publisher Michael Kane did not immediately respond to phone calls.
Several Tribune Co. papers have sought volunteers for layoffs, while Aamidor contends at least two other Gannett Co. dailies did the same thing. Such practices have been put into place more in recent months as newspapers cut staff, but do not formally offer buyouts.
The Star layoffs included one week's pay for each year of service, Aamidor said. He said the next step is for the union and the paper to agree on an arbitrator.
Joe Strupp (email@example.com) is a senior editor at E&P."
"Currently, the plan is the have Indy.com and Metromix.com coexist until the beginning of December and then Indy.com will go through a transformation. The calendar portion of Indy.com will be moving to Metromix.com and this will become Indianapolis's new entertainment website. Indy.com will continue to exist in the future but will have more editorial content on lifestyles of the young, socially active. Indy.com will also become more of a social networking site and will become customizable, such as a MyYahoo where you can create your own page based on what you would like to see there."
Newspapers et all are always evolving. I recall working for Scripps Howard and having fits because the head office kept messing with the symbol of the chain: the lighthouse. Just leave the lighthouse alone, I thought. Don't modify the lighthouse.
But "change is what makes the world go 'round," and change is what is happening in the industry. My biggest concern at this stage of the game: don't eliminate any more positions. And keep the faith....
First the Star launched INTake, with some fanfare and vision, then it went to Indy.com, a much more watered down and less intense version of a youth-oriented publication, geared to the online readers.
The latest word on the street is that Gannett will now use the national service Metromix to provide calendar/restaurant/event info for Indianapolis and readers of the paper.
As for Indy.com, it's destined to morph into a social networking site. How dated and quaint.
Trust Gannett: if there is a formula for ruining newspapers and careers, they have it mastered.
Also, this info bears out a rumor that was circulating a few weeks ago. Anybody else want to weigh in?
Here's the metromix link:
Read it and weep....
We met, 21,000 or so of us, at non at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the open-air coliseum Wednesday for a three-hour rally featuring a totally relaxed and on-task Sen. Obama. Despite overcast skies, we cheered, stomped our feet, chanted "Yes We Can!" and "OBAMA!" but mostly we listened and got our batteries re-charged by Obama, who believes in us.
"Us" is the middle class, and that's what this Indianapolis crowd looked like: young, old, white, black, in wheelchairs, in arms, and, like the rounded, middle-aged, bald Republican sitting just in front of us, in an orange shirt.
"I'm pumpkins for Obama," joked the Republican, whose Bloomington-based son explained his dad's presence: "He bought into everything Bush and the GOP said about the markets. Now he's for Obama."
And who wouldn't be, listening to the speech?
"Ronald Reagan asked, (when he ran for president} 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?'" asked Obama. At today's pace, he said, the question is "how are you compared to four weeks ago?" But, "this is not a time for fear or panic...it is a time for resolve and steady leadership.
"...This is the UNITED States of America," said Obama. "We have faced great challenges and great threats...Our destiny is not written for us but by us. We make the decisions.
"Indiana, that's who we are, and that's where we need to be, and that's why I'm running for president....we are going to make this an American century."
Obama spoke of 700,000 jobs lost since January, then promised to open steel mills again to make wind turbines and solar panels and to build a hybird car of the future not in Japan or South Asia, but in the U.S.A.
"Because of you I have come this far," he said, in what was his grassroots theme: we are in this together. Speaking of Sen. John McCain's tax breaks for the wealthy, he asked for a show of hands: how many in the crowd made less than $250,000 a year? As every arm shot up, Obama promised, "If you make less than a quarter of a million a year, you will not see one dime of increased taxes."
On health care, he compared his perspective, that health care is a right, to McCain's notion, expressed in the debate the night before, that health care is a "responsibility." not the duty of government to provide.
"He (McCain) gets his health care from the government," said Obama, "and he is very happy with it. Yet somehow he doesn't want the government involved" in providing health care for the rest of Americans.
"We put Wall Street before Main Street but somehow we ended up hurting both. It is not just the CEOs, but the CEO's secretaries...not just the owners of the factories, but the men and women on the floor," who are affected, he said.
If we have learned anything at all from the past few weeks' financial crisis, he added, it is that "We are all together, and we rise and fall together."
From where I sat, his speech was punctuated with lots of enthusiastic response: "Thank you!" "Yeah!" "Good job!" "You can do it!"
I've had the priviledge now of hearing Obama speak in person twice, the first time during the primary in Cincinnati, and the second time today in Indy. No joke, as good as he was in Ohio, he's better today: totally on target, comfortable, confident and eloquent as always.
The experience for me, at the age of 61, has been a catalyst -- to see so many different people coming together for a common cause, and always in a mood of exuberance and even joy.
My friendship with my young friend Andre, who is black and from Carmel, has been forged by this campaign; no doubt, millions of others have reached across color and identity lines to embrace one another. So it was that Wednesday's crowed included union workers in T-shirts of their trade -- UAW, Steelworkers, Teamsters -- and aging boomers who remember that the last time Indiana went Democrat was in 1964, when Hoosiers voted for Lyndon Johnson.
At the end, I asked Mr. Bald Republican in the orange shirt if he liked Obama's speech.
"What's not to like?" he said rhetorically.
And as Andre and I left together, flowing out of a very relaxed crowd to find our vehicle, Andre met up with a young fellow volunteer out of the Broad Ripple office. They discussed the latest polls, which states were still in play and the debate the night before. As we parted ways, Andre's friend, wearing a yarmulke, joined his parents. "You'll have to come over for Shabbos!" he called out to Andre.
"Whateever that is, it sounds great," Andre said back.
Unity. It's a joy. Spread the word. And for God's sake, vote.
"Oct. 7, 2008
To fellow union members and all covered "bargaining unit" employees:
On Aug. 25, the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild (TNG-CWA 34070) grieved the layoffs of five coworkers, arguing that the company did not follow the terms of our collective bargaining agreement, Article VI, Section 1, which requires reductions in force be done by seniority. Filing a grievance and waiting for the company's response is a mandatory step before going to the next, more aggressive "binding arbitration" stage.
The company today officially rejected our grievance, which is their
right. We notified them as well we are filing for mandatory
arbitration, which allows an impartial third party to decide the
In August, and in virtually every meeting we have had with management, the Guild implored the company to explore the idea of "volunteers" for the impending layoffs. We know of coworkers who are interested in an early exit, and who wanted to spare other employees who are earlier in their careers and want to stay.
As the result of our action today, we expect the company to threaten to lay off by a "last hired, first fired" policy if we win this arbitration. As distasteful as that is to us, abandoning seniority would 1) subject the union to legal action from anyone improperly laid off (because we would be accused of not providing "fair representation") and 2) make anyone, irrespective of seniority, susceptible to arbitrary and capricious layoffs, dismissals and reductions in force.
Open House: Please feel free to drop by our HQ at the Indianapolis
Musician's Hall, 325 N. Delaware St., at noon, and from 6 to 8 p.m.
Oct. 23 with pizza and refreshments, to answer questions about the
previous layoff and to discuss upcoming contract talks, and to meet officers. Also, we will have a full Inkling in the next few days to go into this and other important details, including negotiating our new collective bargaining agreement beginning later this year.
Abe Aamidor, President
and Guild officers"
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