Saturday, March 31, 2007

Final decision Sunday?

Board deliberations continue today and a vote could happen tomorrow.

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NYT story includes workers' concerns, opinions

Today's New York Times story by Katherine Q. Seeyle focuses on the impact a Tribune sale under the proposed plans could have on the company's 20,000 employees. Seeyle interviewed a few of you from various Trib properties.

What do YOU think? We're really interested in what you have to say, so go ahead — read it and then post your comment here.

NOTE: If you are uncomfortable posting directly, feel free to email one of the moderators (at the top of the right column) with your comment. We respect your need for anonymity. We'll compile responses we receive for a "Comments" post later.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Part 2: You want to use MY money ... ???

For those of you with a Tribune defined benefit pension plan and concerned that the assets can be used to fund an ESOP purchase (or anything else for that matter), we're told that the upper-end limit of investment a pension plan can make is ten percent of the pension holdings. So given the priority plan Trustees assign to diversification and modest risk, it would be unusual for Trustees to approach that limit.

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Billionaires' bidding war is on

LA-based Burkle & Broad one-upped Chicago's Zell with their offer to Tribune last night. Looks like all bets are off for a deal announcement by tomorrow. Read more here and here.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

You want to use MY money to fund YOUR Tribune purchase???

You've told us you want to know if the new owner(s) — Zell?, Burkle and Broad? — can divert your pension, your 401k or any future company 401k matches to it's Employee Stock Ownership Plan— whether you like it or not?!? Well, it IS a bit complicated, but we've looked over our expert's report and gleaned from it this:

1. Pension plan trustees – distinct from 401(k) plan trustees – have to agree to invest in an ESOP, so a new owner alone CAN NOT unilaterally divert money from a defined benefit pension fund. If they do, the limit is 10% of the assets of the pension plan.
2. A new Tribune owner can't divert (past) accumulated 401k money to the ESOP, but it CAN divert future company contributions to an ESOP. However, after you receive the required financial and future business plan info to evaluate an investment in the "new Tribune", you can choose to make your own decision about how much of your accumulated 401k $$$ to divert to the ESOP.
3. A new owner can replace or reformulate the existing 401k, but it has no control over the funds YOU contribute and how its diverted — past, present or future. The new owner only has diversion discretion over its "new" 401k contributions.
4. A "new Tribune" ESOP can be installed without voluntary contributions. The fact is, you may or may not be invited to make voluntary contributions.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wage disparity was unfair

Early in my career, I was working a Saturday shift and sitting at another reporter's desk to be closer to where the editors sat than at my own desk in the back of the newsroom. I reached into a drawer for a pen and saw a pay stub. Of course, I shouldn't have looked at it but of course, I did — I was curious how much they paid this reporter, who was something of a mess. Every story seemed to require a correction; one of those corrections actually needed a correction of its own. As it turned out, this reporter was being paid much more than me and other reporters I checked with. Soon, after much outrage over the unfairness of it all, a Guild organizing effort began. I left for another job while it was underway, and it would take a couple more papers before I landed at one, The Sun, that had a Guild unit. During one of the job interviews, an editor warned, "You'll have to join the Guild, you know." I said, "Happily!"
Jean Marbella
Baltimore Sun

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Monday, March 26, 2007

John Carroll recognizes a unified voice when he hears one

Today's NYT's Media Equation column shines it's spotlight on last week's Grazergate (nicknamed by, about the recent ethics-inspired events resulting in the cancellation of Sunday's LAT Current op-ed section — no doubt precipitated by the uproar from LAT newsroom folks concerned about the paper's credibility. Read it if you choose, but what struck us is former LAT editor John Carroll's contribution:

"It is a nonunion paper in which labor has taken ownership of the place," he said. "They have played an important role in building it, and they don't want to see it damaged."

Carroll has experience with union papers: He's the former editor of the Baltimore Sun and the Lexington (KY) Herald, both represented by The Newspaper Guild - CWA. So he knows that Guild members have a long history of joining together to speak with one voice — not just on common concerns such as wages, benefits and working conditions, to name a few — but on the journalistic ethics and values they hold sacred.

After all, the credibility and success of the papers they work for matter to them too.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why buy Tribune stock thru an ESOP vs. on the open market?

I am a 30-year newsroom employee at the Baltimore Sun. First off, I want to thank you for your informative Q & A on ESOPs. It's a great summation.

I do have one question: while I read at the end that the Guild-CWA wouldn't offer individual advice to investors, I wonder if you could address at some future point in a general way why an employee would make a discretionary investment in an ESOP being proposed as a buyout/takeover strategy.

If employees wanted to own tribune stock, or buy more of it, why wouldn't they buy it on the open market as opposed through an ESOP?

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Union cares about keeping The Sun a great newspaper

"I have been at The Sun for over 30 years and have done a bit of everything, from television critic to foreign correspondent. I am active in the Guild because I think it — more than any other part of this institution — cares about perserving the elements essential to keeping this a great newspaper. It is the Guild that ensures that employees are treated with the kind of respect they need to do their jobs well. As bad as Tribune ownership has been, I shudder to think what the fate of The Sun would be without the Guild."
Michael Hill
reporter and Guild unit chair
Baltimore Sun

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Hartford Courant reporters win Guild's top award

Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman have been awarded the 2006 Heywood Broun Award for their series of stories investigating the U.S. government’s ongoing deployment to Iraq of soldiers who suffer pre-existing mental illness and other psychological conditions.

The Broun Award is named for the union’s founder and first president, and includes a plaque and $5,000 cash prize. It was first presented for work done in 1941 and is given annually in recognition of “individual journalistic achievement by members of the working media, particularly if it helps right a wrong or correct an injustice.”

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Multimedia multi-tasking

Ambitious plans are underway to integrate newspaper and Web at Tribune's Newsday and Los Angeles Times. Wonder if those big (albeit worthy) plans had input from the people who will actually do the work? Is someone going to arbitrarily make decisions as to who is and who isn't going to get the training to perform the multimedia tasks? How is that going to work?

Our members ask the questions, because that's what we do so we can be involved in how the latest techniques in news gathering and production processes impact Guild members. Most often, Guild folks are excited and eager to embrace new ways of doing things and want to play an active, vital role in the new workplace environment. The Guild negotiates over job protections that will benefit folks tapped to provide content for print and web, and still give the company the flexibility it needs.

In the face of company decisions that will dramatically change the way we work, we think it is important to have a voice in the process.

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Message for Tribune (non-management) Employees

With all the whispering going on at the top of the Tribune Company, no one seems to be asking you — the very ones who produce its products — what vision YOU have for where you work. With more empty desks around and the need to work more hours of unpaid overtime to prop up sagging company profit margins, you haven't even had time to take stock of your work life and how impending changes will impact it. I'm guessing nobody in a position of power has asked you, or is even interested in your ideas.

Here's your chance to speak out.

Our goal is to organize Guild units at Tribune properties. There are 30,000 Guild members and 600,000 CWA members who are willing to have some of their dues money go towards organizing new units because they know it strengthens the union and gives others a voice in the workplace.

So explore the links here and on TribuneWatch. Read the posts; get a feel for what The Newspaper Guild members think. And speak up: ask questions, offer comments. Sign your name if you like. Let us know what Tribune publication/product you work for if you want. Drop me a note offline if you care to.

The Guild gives you and your co-workers a chance to negotiate as a group the things that affect your work life. Talk to each other here. That is the essence of unions — an organization that allows employees to choose issues that are important to them and negotiate with management. Companies like to say unions have no power but they work hard to keep us out for some reason. You won't have to take my word for it: you'll hear from Guild members on this blog.

So, tell us — what would you do to save the Tribune Company? Or, what changes would you make where you work to improve things?

Eric D. Geist

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Just Met My Sixth Publisher

"In the 26 years as a reporter for The [Baltimore] Sun, I've worked under three owners, and too many editors to count. And I've just met my sixth publisher. While managers lurched between the latest trends and retrenchments, only the Newspaper Guild and our union contract have remained steadfast. I can count on the Guild to advocate for my interests, and for those of my family, my colleagues and good journalism."
Frank Roylance,
Baltimore Sun

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