Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tribune sued for refusing to pay minimum wage, OT

A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, claiming the company refused to pay minimum wage and overtime to its newspaper distributors. Reuters

Uh oh. The suit seeks class-action status. This bears watching, folks.

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Sad days in LA

In his memo today to LAT staff, publisher David Hiller wrote "We eliminated approximately 170 positions, mostly through the voluntary buyouts; we are planning to hire back approximately 50 positions in the core paper to strengthen talent in multi-media, local coverage, marketing and sales. In addition, we will be adding likely more than 30 additional staff in interactive before the end of the year."

Wait. Fifty-seven hard-working, content-providing journalists are out of a job! Were any of the folks (we've heard were) "encouraged" to leave the paper offered opportunities under the new LAT plan? A plan outlined in the April 23 buyout announcement and described again in more detail in today's memo, that surely was in the can early on.

It won't be lost on many readers and observers (example here) that the changes LAT upper management hopes now to achieve will have been at the expense of staff who have dedicated years of talent and service to the paper, their community and the journalism industry. Neither will it be lost on most that it is their contributions which have produced the profits now lining the pockets of upper Tribune management types.

Hiller writes that everyone has to be involved in how change happens and should be "invested with a sense of urgency", but how much involvement will the remaining journalists really have in the forward direction of the paper and it's web site? The staff is invited to "think about what you can do; talk to your manager and colleagues about it" and "Let me hear from you if you have ideas you want to share", but will workers' concerns about corporate profits being put before public interests also be considered?

"We are a living, changing organization and this [is] all part of how we adapt", wrote Hiller at the end of his memo.

A living, changing organization adapts best when it's workers — the ones making the biggest and most valuable contribution to the success of the changed organization — are truly included in the process. Regrettably, that can only happen when workers have a voice.
(end of post)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's really behind the failed sale of The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time?

First, we want to congratulate the UAW local for fighting for its members at The Stamford Advocate.

Second, we don't for a minute think the union is to blame for the failure of Tribune to close the sale of the those 2 papers.

Maybe the deal started to unravel when Gannett demanded that Stamford Advocate newsroom staff reapply for their jobs in violation of the union contract.

Then after a judge upheld an arbitrator's decision requiring the employees' collective bargaining agreement be included in the Tribune/Gannett deal, Gannett sought to revise language of the sale agreement that would "compensate for the union contract", according to a Gannett spokesperson.

Could an agreement covering 34 newsroom staff derail the deal? We doubt it. "We have a very modest contract, nothing that Gannett couldn't handle," Maida Rosenstein, UAW Local 2110 told Greenwich Time

So here's the thing: Like Tribune, Gannett is a union employer. It has bought Guild-covered properties in the past, like the Indianapolis Star-News and The Sheboygan Press (Wisconsin) and assumed the union contracts.

So what really happened to the deal in Connecticut? Why did Gannett go to such an extreme to haggle out a deal that would "compensate" it for a union's representation at one of the papers?

Blaming the union would be just too convenient. Could it be that the deal fell through because the amount Gannett agreed to pay didn't look so good months after they originally made the $73M deal?

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tendered shares will be paid by June 5

Update: Tribune Co.'s 5/31/07 press release

Tribune announced last Friday that around 92% of of shares outstanding were tendered by the May 24 expiration of the tender offer.

The offer was for 126,000,000 shares but because 224,000,000 were tendered by shareholders, the shares will be purchased on a pro rata basis.

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Guild at the front of the line to support quality journalism

I'm a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, based in the Boston bureau, where I've worked for five years. I became more active in the union during our last round of contract negotiations, when it became clear that in addition to aggressively standing up for the wages and benefits of employees, the union was at front of the line when it came to supporting quality journalism. In the years since, in the face of the industry's troubles and the short-term thinking that has swept in alongside, the union's voice has become even more critical. We have a simple message: Our business and company will succeed over the long term if we put out the best products packed with the best reporting. That requires investing in our people. It's a strategy that's good for the company, good for the employees and good for the profession. I've found that the union is that strategy's clearest and most forceful advocate.

Charles Forelle
Reporter and 2007 Pulitzer Prize Winner
Wall Street Journal

(end of post)

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Tribune wants to cut Hartford Courant newsroom by 10

*Links updated 5/26
Eighty-one of the 252 editorial staffers will be eligible for a buyout, but the company says it needs to cut only 10 in an action that "is one of many being taken this spring in News and other departments to cut expenses and bring in new revenue, as we work to offset advertising shortfalls."

Those receiving the offer are: copy editors with more than 14 years of service; metro and state reporters II and III with more than six years of service, excluding columnists and investigative team members; state and metro origination editors in grades 12 and 14 and bureau chiefs, excluding Washington; and sports reporters with more than 18 years of service.
The package offer is the same as has been offered at other Tribune newspaper properties.

How is the new Tribune going to make enough money to cover it's enormous debt payments if the old Tribune continues to eliminate the very people who provide the content for it's news products?

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

57 are out in LAT newsroom, but ...

According to editor Jim O'Shea in a memo to the staff today "some highly talented people are leaving the staff and I hate to see them go. No one enjoys going through something like this, least of all me. This is a time of wrenching change at our paper ..."

In the same memo: "In the editorial department, 57 members of the staff will be leaving the paper ... We will replace a significant number of people, though, to offset the decline."

Those who left under their own volition might look at the severance package as a gift. It is not.

It is money earned over the years for contributing to the greatness of the Los Angeles Times. For those who were pushed out — or whose jobs were eliminated: it's a shame no effort was made to keep those hard-working and talented employees.

At the end of the day, the LAT severance package falls far short of how loyal employees should be treated. Indeed, it remains to be seen if the new replacements will be hired because they are highly talented or just another poorly disguised corporate move to pay lower salaries.

Wrenching time of change indeed. For the 57.

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No one will get pushed out the door at SF Chronicle

Buyouts are layoffs with money thrown in to make the exit out the door a little less painful. Where the staff is represented by the Guild, both are subject to negotiations with the union to ensure the reduction in force is carried out fairly if layoff alternatives can't be achieved.

Following a lengthy negotiating session yesterday at the San Francisco Chronicle over the terms of buyouts there, union negotiators obtained assurances that no one will be coerced or forced into accepting a buyout.

But at The Los Angeles Times, a respected long-term columnist without union representation is being forced out the door.

Where's the fairness there?

(end of post)

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

WSJ newscaster activist "gives back"

With more than 30 years in the broadcasting business and 14 of those at the Wall Street Journal radio network, I can certainly appreciate the protection from workplace abuse that IAPE (Independant Association of Publishers' Employees - Newspaper Guild Local 1096) provides. I have witnessed how managers are immediately called upon by (the union) to correct any violations of the labor agreement. With that safety net, I can do a better job and am rest assured that my workplace environment will be free of unnecessary distractions. I serve as local director in South Brunswick, NJ and a (local executive) board member so that I can give back to (my union) for providing a less worrisome workplace atmosphere, and also fight for job protections, as well as better pay and beneifts.

Dean W. Schomburg,
Wall Street Journal radio network
(end of post)

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Guild at The Baltimore Sun launches

*Update: Check out WBAL-TV's story of the Guild's rally at The Sun here. Click on the second QuickView.

The site – parts of which are still being developed — will be a resource for gathering and disseminating information concerning all aspects of Tribune operations for members and the public:

With the Guild and Tribune Co. management working together, things can change. 
What we must do in order to remedy the effects of the Tribune Co.’s most recent dramatic and unnecessary changes:

• Focus on quality

• Stop cutting and invest in the people and the paper

• Build a better Web site with Guild reporters and photographers

• Attract and retain the best talent

• Invest in circulation

Good site to bookmark on your browser, folks.

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San Francisco Guild offers plan to soften blow of proposed job cuts

* Updated
The San Francisco Chronicle told the Guild Thursday that it intends to cut 80 newsroom Guild-covered jobs and 20 management positions.

Guild representatives offered a plan to achieve the target number of job reductions through voluntary buyouts and retirement incentatives. The plan would take approximately 30 days to carry out, and would be part of an overall reorganization of newsroom jobs and functions. The buyout offers could be targeted to particular departments and classifications, and terms would be negotiated by the Guild and management. If the target number of 80 is not reached within 30 days, management could then proceed to involuntary reductions. Guild officers insisted that all contractual terms including seniority protection would have to be followed.

Although the employer generally has the right to determine the size of it's staff, Guild contracts typically cover how job cuts (layoffs) are achieved. Management must negotiate with union leadership (newsroom staffers elected by their coworkers to represent them) on the terms and conditions of the reduction in force (RIF). In some cases, the union has negotiated enhanced packages aimed at achieving the reductions on a voluntary basis thus eliminating the need for involuntary layoffs. Recently, the Tribune buyout offer was approved by the Baltimore Guild with no changes because it closely reflected the guidelines set forth in their contract.

Newsroom jobs continue to be slashed and whether it's the result of declining revenues or to improve corporate profits or both, layoffs at Guild papers must be conducted according to the existing contract. These days, some non-union papers are using union standards when reducing their staffs, so when the job-elimination hammer falls, the blow is softened with cash and extended benefits.

"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts." —Molly Ivins

(end of post)

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

So, like, what exactly has the Guild done for it's members lately?

That question was asked of us recently. It's a legitimate one, but the answer lies in the numerous daily victories happening in Guild workplaces all over North America.

Take for example what the Guild did in Albany, NY on the issue of after hours blogging (emphasis ours):

"The Newspaper Guild-CWA of Albany has reached an agreement with the Times Union on after hours blogging. The agreement waives the normal minimum of four hours overtime when people are called back to work after they have gone home. Instead people are paid straight overtime solely for blogging. This was a recognition on the part of the local and our members that some members enjoy blogging and it does not require employees to drive back to the workplace. Sometimes members can spend as little as 15 minutes posting an item and they were reluctant to seek 4 hours of overtime for doing so."

And The News Media Guild at the Associated Press:

"Our agreement wasn’t about blogging per se, but it covers extra hours assignments. The AP announced it would pay $300 for contributions to its asap (young readers) and travel pieces. Our agreement was just that the payment would be at least $300, but could be more if implicated the higher OT rates in the contract."

The union isn't some disassociated entity ruling from on high, rolling into town to fix workers' problems and strong-arm the company into playing nice. The real power and success lies at the local level — one worker plus another plus ten plus hundreds – thousands in some cases – advocating for each other, working together to identify and resolve problems that arise in their workplace (in the above cases, the problem is compensation for blogging on off hours), negotiating agreements with the company when necessary, launching collective action to effect positive change and building partnerships within the company and in the community.
(end of post)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Integrating print and online newsrooms

Negotiations for a new Guild contract began today in Baltimore and although neither side disclosed what their proposals will be, Tribune has indicated it will seek more flexibility (no surprise there) and Guild members want staffing levels maintained (no surprise there, either) and  — integration of employees who work for the paper's Web site (currently non-union) into the Sun newsroom.

Guild members are writing, designing and producing for their employers' online products and have been doing so for years. When newspapers made their first venture into the new digital arena during the Nineties, many sought to create and then maintain separate work forces, often at different locations designed to keep the new staff non-union. Guild employees argued that though the news delivery platform is different, the work is the same; online workers should be covered by Guild bargaining agreements. Some employers concurred and folded the online staff in under the union's existing contract (Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News). In some cases, local bargaining committees successfully negotiated separate agreements covering the Web staff (New York Times Digital).

More and more newspapers are making the business decision to increase their news gathering flexibilty by integrating the print and online staffs. Keeping them separate doesn't make much sense at a time when increased collaboration between print journalists, designers and photgraphers and the paper's Web staff is expected — no, required — to produce news content for the Internet audience.

Online workers should have the same right to voice and vote on workplace terms and conditions as their print counterparts.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sun Guild unit takes proactive approach to upcoming contract negotiations

Baltimore Sun unit chair Michael Hill reports the WBNG has hired a public relations firm "to represent its viewpoint to the media and the financial community so that the negotiations are not viewed simply as a classic labor-vs.-management fight."

The Guild unit's action is but one example of how organized workers can use their collective power to advance their interests.

The members of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild (WBNG) will do what it takes to ensure that the local community understands that the union's issues have as much to do with maintaining the quality of the newspaper as does the more traditionally viewed subjects of bargaining like wages and benefits.

(end of post)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Guild members take the lead at

When unionized workers and their employer join together in a true partnership in which the people who are producing the work get to have their ideas heard and their talents appreciated, good things can happen.

Employees working collaboratively with management on are the proud reporters, creators and producers who have made the LA Daily News's web site a finalist for a California Newspaper Publishers Association award. Wrote a LADN journalist, Guild member and blogger:

"... the partnership between the union and the company has produced excellent results. It was our contacts and relationships elsewhere in the industry that allowed us to collaborate on ways to update our jobs for the modern Web. Rather than standing in the way of these changes to our workplace, we've embraced them and played a role in integrating them into the newsroom..."

As it should be!

(end ofpost)

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Los Angeles Times seeks labor relations manager

It appears the company is anticipating the need for a labor/management expert in it's immediate future:

The Labor Relations Manager proactively establishes and maintains satisfactory labor management relations, administers the organization’s labor relations policy and represents management in labor and employee relations. Represents the organization in dealings with union officials. Advises organization of potential labor issues based on new/proposed programs, policies and initiatives.
(end of post)

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tribune shareholders meeting today

*Corrected and updated – At the shareholders annual meeting today, representatives of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters protested the ESOP structure that is key to the sale. "This structure makes the employees shareholders in name only," said president James Hoffa in a prepared statement.

The statement reflects a concern expressed April 2 by Newspaper Guild president Linda K. Foley when she called for representation of workers' interest in the ESOP:

The employee stock ownership plan – a significant part of this deal – can result in a positive partnership that benefits everyone involved or it can be a frustrating experience for worker-investors who end up bearing much of risk while experiencing little positive gain.

Tribune CEO peppered with questions on Zell deal
Tribune Shareholders Recommend Annual Board Elections
Teamsters press release
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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Zell: My goal is to preserve everything we have and make it a lot better

In a May 2 interview with Financial Times US, Sam Zell was asked about newspapers in the internet age and their responsibility to the community, the relationship rift between Chicago and Los Angeles and the complex ESOP structure he created to buy Tribune:

FT: Are you at all worried that, because of the fairly complex ESOP structure which you created to buy the company, there is a risk for employees that the pensions that they’re accruing going forward could be lost if things don’t work out?

MR ZELL: The employees’ contribution represents that which the company previously matched their IRA contributions. So it isn’t like they’re taking their pension funds; it isn’t like they’re taking anything that they have.

FT: It’s not the existing? It’s what will be accumulated going forward?

MR ZELL: And it’s only the match part of it going forward that’s relevant. And I guess, when it’s all said and done, I’m putting up $315m. If the employees don’t make any money, then I’m likely to lose my $315m, and despite comments to the contrary, I still think $315m is one hell of a lot of money. And I assure you I’m going to do everything I can to make that profitable, and as a result, benefit the employees.

FT: So you feel like the risk to you is comparable with the risk to them?

MR ZELL: Oh, absolutely. And the interests are totally aligned.

(end of post)

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Update: Stamford Advocate sale terms must include newsroom's collective bargaining agreement

When new owner Gannett demanded in March that reporters and photographers reapply for their jobs and interview with Gannett representatives, UAW-represented newsroom employees filed a grievance under the successors and assigns provision of their contract. The provision is common in union contracts as it requires a new owner to recognize and bargain with the union. Though the union was willing to work with Gannett, the company's wage and benefit offer was below the contractual rates. The grievance moved quickly to arbitration.

A U.S District Court judge issued an injunction March 28 temporarily blocking the sale pending the outcome of the arbitration. The arbitrator ruled April 9 that Tribune was obligated to include the union contract in the purchase and sale agreement. From AP late Friday:

Tribune and the union filed court papers Thursday saying they had reached an agreement confirming the arbitrator's ruling and the clarification, which upheld the initial decision.

"We wanted the court to confirm the arbitration award so that the award had the authority of a court order and we've achieved that," said Henry Murray, an attorney for the union.

Will the sale will go forward? Union reps report Gannett said it will not go through with the deal if it has to take the union contract. Discussions are on-going.

(end of post)

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Tribune petitions FCC for Ownership Waivers

Requests were filed this week to waive restrictions that would prevent it from owning newspapers and TV stations in the same city, pending FCC adoption of new ownership rules. Zell's Deal needs the waivers. Read The Chicago Tribune here and (a little more info) here.
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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Orlando Sentinel reorganization plan will eliminate about 24 jobs

Voluntary separation packages will be offered to FT employees with at least 10 years of service as part of the plan to reduce the staff over the next 4-6 weeks. Jobs may also go in the pressroom and packaging dept.

The restructuring plan "divides the newsroom into news-gathering and production teams, moving away from the news desk system that assigns groups of reporters and editors to produce specific sections of the paper."

Story in today's Sentinel and editor's memo to the staff.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Right to the point

"In these uncertain times for our industry, when newspapers are cutting hundreds of jobs at once, it gives me peace of mind to know we have a Guild that protects us. It not only fights to keep our jobs, but also to maintain crucial benefits like sick time, affordable health care, adequate vacation time and maternity leave."
—Rona Kobell
The Baltimore Sun

(end of post)

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"The staff, from top to bottom, opposes a Rupert Murdoch takeover ..."

It didn't take long for Newspaper Guild members at Dow Jones to voice their multiple concerns about today's $5B unsolicited bid for family- owned controlled Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Barron's) by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (New York Post, Fox News Channel).

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