Tuesday, July 31, 2007

With News Corp. poised to wins control of DJ; Guild leader explains union's opposition **

Steve Yount, a news anchor/writer on The Wall Street Journal Radio Network, with more than 30 years experience in broadcast journalism and the elected president of the IAPE (Independent Association of Publishers' Employees), is currently involved in contract bargaining with Dow Jones & Company and has recently added almost 300 new members through organizing drives at the NJ locations of MarketWatch and the Dow Jones Newswires:

IAPE has been actively opposed to the proposed $5 billion News Corp bid for Dow Jones and has made that opposition clear in our public comments, our mobilization efforts and in private efforts to assemble alternatives to the bid.

Our opposition was the result of the clear consensus of the union board of directors (composed of representatives from every job classification and Dow Jones location across North America) that a News Corp takeover was not in the best interest of either the economic well-being of our members or the continued quality of the product our members produce.

Having a union to express an opinion, freed individual members from the ethical dilemma of taking a public stance on a story they might have been covering. It also gave the membership an opportunity to be a "player" in the struggle – an opportunity which never would have been available to individual employees.

As union president (a full time Dow Jones employee on leave for the duration of my elected term) I had the responsibility of being the public voice of the union: delivering our message in hundreds of news interviews, writing op-ed pieces and mobilizing the membership to underline IAPE's opposition.

As a union, we also had the resources of the Newspaper Guild and the CWA in our battle. We were given access to the services of Ownership Associates, a company specializing in employee-led ownership efforts. Together with OA, TNG and CWA, we had an opportunity to have a seat at the table in the serious talks over counter-offers and competing bids. Because IAPE existed and was fully supported by its parent unions, employees had a much greater opportunity to play a role in determining their own future.

Whatever your opinion might be on the merits of the IAPE position, there's no denying the fact that our members – our colleagues and coworkers – had a chance to make a difference. We had the opportunity to have a real voice in the debate.

In everything we do, IAPE reminds the membership that "This is Your Union." We take that very seriously. IAPE exists solely to defend and promote and defend the economic interests of the members: win more money, better benefits, stronger job protection and improved working conditions to the employees of Dow Jones & Company. We do that by being a true voice for the membership.
IAPE represents two thousand Dow Jones employees who report the news, sell the ads, maintain the technology, build circulation and perform the many other tasks that define this company. IAPE represents everyone from Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters to salespersons to building maintenance crews.

* Read Yount's statement on Romenesko
** WSJ – The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies. The two companies are expected to sign a merger agreement and issue statements in the next few hours. (posted 9:35pm EDT)
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1 comment:

TomHiltz said...

Steve Yount is obviously a dedicated and principled labor leader. His explanation of his union’s position in response to Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Dow Jones is clear and concise. It satisfied me. I would hope that labor activists in the Guild who question the wisdom of that position would know without asking that it was pursued with a strong level of rank and file support.

The Guild should be there for its members to publicly communicate their feelings on any issue that affects the relationship between the employer and the union.

The Guild and CWA are democratic unions committed to following the dictates of the members butt, as unions, they are also obliged to represent the members responsibly. Feelings may have been too strong in this case, but I hope someone suggested that poking the new boss in the eye before he shows up is not the best way to build a productive relationship. In Boston, we had a long relationship with News Corp. They always respected our right to exist and dealt with us in good faith.

My point is that leadership sometimes must lead the horses from the burning barn against their will. It is probably the most difficult and dangerous task any leader must face. But it’s just as much a part of the Guild’s responsibility as democracy and freedom of speech.

Hindsight is, as is so frequently said, 20-20. Another often used quote “What is past is prologue,” also applies. Let us look at this and see if it might make sense to respond differently the next time we face this.