Chronicle unit prefers the holistic approach

Chronicle unit prefers the holistic approach

Pacific Media Workers Guild
Bargaining Update
Monday March 26, 2018

Chronicle Guild negotiators rejected Hearst Corp.’s demand to eliminate union jurisdiction over the marketing and advertising departments. Our committee sent a letter on Monday to convey that stance to the management.

The Guild’s action followed well-attended membership meetings that drew little interest for the company’s proposal from advertising or editorial staff.

“The union has included the advertising department since the 1930s,” said Carl Hall, executive officer of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. “We’ve all been on strike together. Union membership is a human right that people have died to defend. We’re not going to give that up easily.”

Hall added, “We considered the company’s proposal because we wanted to get some important feedback from the ad staff, and we got it.”

Management outlined its offer under “Option A” of the company’s most recent contract proposal. The company offered the following to Guild members in exchange for kicking ad and marketing staff out of the union:

  • 401(K) match – 50 percent match of employee contribution up to 4 percent of pay
  • Short-term disability, sick and maternity/paternity benefits for Guild members *
  • Life insurance coverage *
  • Long-term disability insurance *

* Same terms as non-represented employees

No union is obligated to bargain over a proposal to break up its own bargaining unit. The Guild told the company from the outset that we reserved the right to remove the topic from the bargaining table since this kind of proposal concerns what’s known as a “non-mandatory subject” of bargaining.

The management offer was not nearly enough to overcome strong membership opposition to its divide-and-conquer strategy.

The Guild now turns to the company’s proposed “Option B,” which does not include separating out ad and marketing staff. Option B proposes a 1 percent increase to pay minimums. However, those across-the-board increases could be withheld for anyone on a performance improvement plan. There would also be a 2 percent “merit pool” to fund optional raises of nothing up to 5 percent, based on performance evaluations.

Our negotiations this year come against a backdrop of economic recovery and a dramatic financial turnaround for the Chronicle, in large part due to the sacrifices of Guild employees in previous rounds of collective bargaining.

Our membership chose steep concessions in 2009 to stop Hearst from carrying out its threat to shut the newspaper down. Pensions were frozen or eliminated, job security was weakened, the workday lengthened from 7.5 to 8 hours and overtime cut. Those cuts allowed the Chronicle to rebound after years of big losses, and Hearst now brags about seven straight profit years.

Our committee has proposed a 5 percent company contribution into the 401(k), along with annual raises totaling 4.9 percent a year over the term of a three-year contract. We also seek to resolve an ongoing dispute over pay equity for women, people of color and older workers.

Along with a reasonable share in the Chronicle’s recovery, we are demanding changes in some contract terms as well as recent company practices we maintain are unfair. The company now treats overscale pay as something it can cut any time, subsuming Guild experience-step increases into the overscale in some cases — an unannounced departure from past practice. And by the way, the head of HR claimed in her propaganda that there was  never past practice to preserve overscale. Good thing she’s not a journalist because the fact-checkers say she’s earned a “Correction” notice.

We aim to stop this subterfuge and resolve other pending controversies during this round of negotiations, including our grievance about pay disparities involving gender, race and age.

Our proposed across-the-board raises would apply to all pay — including overscale as well as the contractual minimum pay.

Guild members have expressed strong opposition to merit-based pay on the grounds the ratings are unrealistic and arbitrary, and subject to considerations that have nothing to do with performance. However, we have offered to create a blended or “hybrid” pay system that combines guaranteed cost-of-living raises for everybody along with a fair merit system.

The next negotiation date has not been set. The Guild has completed a comprehensive pay equity study and is proposing a meeting on this subject be scheduled next. (Note that we have provided plenty of work product to the Company to support our claims, and had to fight for nearly one year to get up-to-date pay information from the Company.)

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Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.

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