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Hearst proposes to gut Chronicle labor agreement

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE/SFGATE UNIT
Bargaining bulletin #3

After waiting more or less patiently for any hint of a meaningful contract offer from the Hearst Corp., New York finally coughed something up Wednesday. It wasn’t something you would want to pick up without wearing rubber gloves.

The company wants to abandon annual cost-of-living pay raises and discontinue experience-based step increases. Any future raises would be entirely based on management whim — the same discretionary system that now governs overscale merit raises, which has led to allegations of pay inequities tied to sex, race and age.

Your Guild bargaining committee has proposed 5 percent annual pay increases in a 3-year contract, shorter workdays, restored vacations, a 401(k) match and a new retirement plan. Among other things most workers ought to be guaranteed — and which were part of our workplace until the New York bean counters made their ghastly shutdown threats in 2009.

In the Chronicle’s proposal, all members of the ad staff and SFGate would lose union benefits and job protection altogether.

Sick leave banks would be wiped out. Instead, we’d get 10 days a year in sick leave, and the company would cancel any unused days at the end of each year.

Hearst has been crowing publicly for months about the Chronicle’s return to profitability, a turnaround achieved in large part because of sacrifices we made in 2005 and 2009 when Hearst otherwise threatened to shut down the newspaper. But even after pocketing millions in a lucrative real estate deal downtown, Hearst still can’t find the resources to offer any kind of retirement security, not even a matching contribution to employee 401(k) accounts.

We would have to beg for written permission “to hold any type of outside employment (paid or unpaid)” and such permission could be “revoked at any time for any reason.” Given the Chronicle’s low wages and lack of retirement benefits, outside employment has probably become even more necessary.

Everybody would have to find your own parking downtown, even for company cars.

There would be no effort to create a more family-friendly workplace. No part-time schedules for new parents. No help with childcare near the office. They stopped short of demanding the kids be put to work as fill-in copy editors, but keep that to yourself: We don’t want to give them any ideas.

We expect to be holding membership meetings as soon as possible to consider our next steps. A bargaining session with Hearst has been set for Oct. 24 and 25 at the Guild offices. Any Guild-covered employee is invited to observe. Call (415) 421-6833 for details.

The Guild wishes to acknowledge the hard work the newsroom staff has put in covering the wine country fires. Amazing work under pressure and in the danger zone.

The Chronicle Guild Bargaining Committee: Mike Cabanatuan, JK Dineen, Tara Duggan, Caroline Grannan, and Steve Rubenstein, and Guild staff Carl Hall and Kat Anderson.

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Carl Hall

Carl Hall

Carl Hall is the executive officer of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, CWA Local 39521.

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