Chronicle members pick up the pace
San Francisco Chronicle Unit
Bargaining Bulletin #19
Hearst lawyers brought nothing new to the bargaining table Thursday when talks
resumed for a new Guild contract at the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Guild offered the outline of an amended comprehensive proposal that we handed to
Hearst on March 4. The Guild committee suggested we would increase the employee
share of health premiums, provided our Chronicle membership be protected against
unreasonable cost increases in the last two years of a four-year labor agreement.
We also offered new details – including specific cost information for all plan options
– about our proposed merger of our membership into a health plan sponsored by
We received no new formal response from Hearst on Thursday. More talks are
scheduled for Monday. Our committee has made it clear that we expect Hearst to
show its best offer very soon or it risks an escalating labor dispute in San Francisco.
But on Thursday, company representatives said Hearst simply is not willing to
increase the amount it pays for Guild members’ health care, nor is the company
willing to consider pay increases larger than the 1.5 percent offered. They repeated
the core message delivered by Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega in a recent letter
to employees: The company is offering the Guild the chance to join the Hearst
corporate health insurance program under the same terms and at the same costs as
management employees. Period.
The corporate lawyers call it a “same-as” proposal, meaning the terms would be the
same for management and union staff. But Carl Hall, the Guild’s spokesman at the
bargaining table, told the Hearst team: “It’s not the ‘same-as,’ because the Guild pay
is not the same as the management’s.”
Hall told Hearst its employees are unhappy with the company offer because the
Guild staff made many concessions in 2005 and 2009 to save the Chronicle. Now
that profits appear to be back, and management employees are even being offered
profit-sharing, union workers resent being told that we must sacrifice yet again.
Guild members get their health coverage now through a union-administered Health and Welfare
plan that has low costs for employees but has received no additional money from
Hearst since 2005, despite double-digit increases from the insurers nearly
every year. The union’s goal in the bargaining is to close the deficit in the health
program while protecting take-home pay and quality coverage, but Hearst has
shown little regard for meeting either of those goals.
The Hearst-proposed health benefits cost substantially more than the comparable
Guild coverage now offered, particularly for families and people enrolled in the
Hearst representatives Thursday accused the Guild of unfairly “bashing” the Hearst
company health plan, an apparent reference to the union membership’s recent
campaign on Twitter and Facebook demanding fair terms on health care and pay.
The same message was conveyed again Thursday afternoon in a mass break taken
by nearly all Chronicle Guild employees. Marchers circled the building at Fifth and
Mission wearing red and carrying placards.
The corporate complaint, in essence, was that we keep asking the same question:
Why doesn’t Hearst offer enough money, or cheaper benefit costs, so we don’t have
to suffer a pay cut or sacrifice the health coverage needed by our families?
“You’re wasting time,” said one Hearst representative.
Representing the Guild: Michael Cabanatuan, Matthai Kuruvila, Kat Anderson,
Autumn Grace and Carl Hall.
Representing the management: Suzy Cain, Cathy Rommelfanger, Peter Rahbar, Aryn
Sobo, Carolene Eaddy. (Eaddy and Rahbar participated by videoconference.)