Former Los Angeles Times editor and columnist Rick Wartzman offers an informative piece on The American Prospect's website about the recent organizing success at LAT, including an historical perspective on the Chandlers' anti-union bias. Wartzman describes Labor's win as "remarkable historically and symbolically, capping L.A.'s decades-long transformation from a non-union city to one in which organized labor is an unusually potent force." Wartzman writes:
One of the primary reasons that the union prevailed (in the pressroom) at (the Times) was a feeling among the employees that they've been asked to work a lot harder without getting much in return; pay increases in recent years have been paltry at best. In this era of stagnating wages and deteriorating benefits -- amid big gains in productivity -- that's a set of circumstances hardly unique to the Times.Recent extensive cuts to newsroom staff followed the loss of 400+ printing plant employees over the last seven years. As a result, those remaining have had to pick up the slack. "It essentially equates to the work doubling," said Ronnie Pineda, long-time Times employee and union supporter . "We've got to hang more plates. We've got to push more rolls."
The extra workload has not only increased the likelihood of injury, Pineda adds, it has come without much to show for it: Wages have crept up a mere 7.5 percent since 2000, while employees' out-of-pocket costs for medical insurance have climbed.Coincidentally, increased workloads to compensate for a smaller staff, escalating costs for medical insurance that provide less benefit and a future retirement plan (ESOP) that is risky at best are just a few of the reasons non-union newsroom workers are talking with the Guild.
Wartzman: "It's no wonder that a new batch of research suggests workers across the United States are hungrier than ever for union representation, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute study."