Hearst Health Care 2013 – will the Chronicle be fair?

Chronicle worker Bradley Ramacher sees Hearst offer as a pay cut.  Photo by Mike Kepka 2013.

Chronicle worker Bradley Ramacher sees Hearst offer as a pay cut. Photo by Mike Kepka 2013.

Hearst offer is “cracker jacks”

Hearst is becoming an off-balance tightrope act above the newspaper and media circus, and the show could now come at the further expense of its supporting performers at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hearst boasts billion-dollar profits each year, giving the advertising world the impression of stability, solidity, and continued successful performance. But at the most critical point yet of the Chronicle’s lifespan Hearst refuses to lend a hand to the staff who help keep the tightrope taught on a daily basis.

The 1.5% proposed raise for compensation in the expensive Bay Area is equivalent to Hearst buying the staff a box of crackerjacks with each paycheck. Taking an essential “pay cut” in order to continue receiving medical benefits could leave many supporting staff swinging back and forth on a trapeze between their loved jobs or a higher-paying future.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s foundation is being put at risk in order to allow the Hearst Media show to go on, and pressure will continue to build on the shoulders of the supporting performers if they are neglected a helping hand from one of the richest businesses in the nation.

– Bradley Ramacher

 

Bradley has worked at the San Francisco Chronicle for almost three years.  He started as an administrative assistant and now works in the Finance department.

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Hearst Health Care 2013 – will the Chronicle be fair?

Michael Cabanatuan urges the Chronicle to do right by the people who helped it. Photo by Mike Kepka.

Michael Cabanatuan urges the Chronicle to do right by the people who helped it. Photo by Mike Kepka 2013.

My name is Michael Cabanatuan. Like most of my co-workers, I love working for the Chronicle.

I never expected to make big money writing for a newspaper, even though it’s a demanding, often stressful job. None of us did. But we did expect to be paid decent, if modest, salaries we could live on, good health insurance, a reasonable amount of time off and some retirement.

We showed our love for the Chronicle a few years ago when times were tough by sacrificing pay raises, vacation time and holidays and by letting Hearst end our pension plan. Our donations to the Hearst Corp. — not to mention our hard work — have helped turn the Chronicle toward profitability. (Not that they’ve ever said thank you.) No, Hearst has simply taken — and taken advantage of our love for journalism and for the Chronicle.

Now, when Hearst should be showing us a little love, and recognizing our contributions, the corporation wants to force us to pay huge increases for health care coverage under an inferior plan. Yeah, they’re offering a pay raise – a whopping 1.5 percent on wages that even the company admits are too low.

It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that this is a significant pay cut. All of us will lose hundreds, some will lose thousands, of dollars a year – even after the pay raises are factored in. And many of us, myself included, will be forced to question whether we can afford to continue to work at the Chronicle in the jobs we love.

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Health Care 2013 – will the Chronicle be fair?

SFC jpeg Mike Kepka 2013I’m Mike Kepka. Raising three young daughters, I’m exposed to every cold and virus you might imagine. So having affordable access to medical care is a priority for me.

Unfortunately, Hearst is proposing to make our health plans a whole lot less affordable.

I love the Chronicle, and the work I do. But financially, I do a little worse every year. My coworkers and I are bringing home less and less pay, as the cost of housing, food and transportation continues to rise. Rising healthcare costs are eating another hole in my paycheck — one that would get even bigger under Hearst’s proposed plan.

As the Chronicle has struggled through hard times, we workers have continued to go the extra mile for this newspaper and the communities we serve. Now it’s time for Hearst to do what’s right and re-invest in us.

Health Care 2013 – will the Chronicle be fair?

Autumn-01-resized

My name is Autumn Grace. I am a former member of the Chronicle family and presently an employee advocate and organizer for the Pacific Media Workers Guild.

I am still covered under the Chronicle health care plan and have been a Kaiser member for as long as I can remember. My son was born at Kaiser and has been cared for by an incredibly personable and experienced pediatrician. As a single mother and a student, having affordable health care is critical to keeping my family healthy.

Having the Media Guild Health And Welfare Trust Fund managing the health plan will allow me to continue to have coverage. I feel that Hearst should continue to provide AFFORDABLE health care for its employees as well as the Guild staff so we can all continue to work together in making the Chronicle a great place to work.

Health Care 2013: will the Chronicle be fair?

Heather Smith

I am Heather Smith. I have worked in the Prepress Department as a Graphic Designer for the San Francisco Chronicle for almost 13 years. In that time, the co-pay for a visit to my doctor has gone from $10 to $30 per visit. If it gets much higher, I will not be able to afford to get sick.

Uncertainty over health care causes me stress and there is a well-studied correlation between stress and diminishment of well-being. A healthy workforce is a more productive, efficient workforce. But the workers at this paper won’t be able to stay healthy if we cannot afford the routine check-ups and doctor visits that are a sign of a pro-active community of workers taking charge of their health.

Moreover, with a history of chronic migraines (as many as four a month), affordable health care allows me to maintain a supply of the pain medication that makes it possible for me to make it to work even on my pain-laden days.

With the proposed options that the union was given, my pay would effectively be reduced by over $1,500 per year, an amount I cannot afford in the high-priced Bay Area economy. And that is WITH the proposed annual raises factored in.

The workers took a pay hit during the last negotiations. It took me three years to just get back to my previous pay, and does not account for the yearly cost of living increases.

I sincerely hope Hearst will see the benefit of maintaining affordable health care, not only for its workers but for the economic health of the newspaper as a whole. A company thrives when its people thrive. And people thrive when they are well-cared for and healthy. I believe the staff has worked for the health of this newspaper and now it’s time for the newspaper to work for the health of its staff.

Health Care 2013 – will the Chronicle be fair?

Harold Pierce is an SFGate.com Performance Manager at the Chronicle. Photo by Mike Kepka 2013.

Harold Pierce is an SFGate.com Performance Manager at the Chronicle. Photo by Mike Kepka 2013.

My name is Harold Pierce. I am a Performance Manager within the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate.com Division. I’ve been very fortunate in the past to have taken advantage of quality healthcare at reasonable rates though the healthcare plan with the Pacific Media Workers Guild. I currently am enrolled with Kaiser Permanente and have been able to maintain a retirement and savings plan through the money saved on medical insurance.

Having affordable healthcare has also enabled me to achieve a stronger work-life balance living and working within one of the most expensive cities in the world. I was troubled when learning that Hearst may no longer continue our same coverage. Without the savings achieved through affordable healthcare, it will become increasingly difficult to keep up with the cost of living in San Francisco. I would need to cut back on saving for the future and reduce amenities such as my gym membership in order to make ends meet, which would be inopportune.

I sincerely hope that Hearst will do the honorable thing and continue to provide affordable healthcare. Dedicated employees prosper when adequately given fair benefits at affordable rates. With Hearst’s participation, we can all prosper together and maintain a strong work environment.

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Health Care 2013 – will the Chronicle be fair?

Jon Ferguson, 51, is a copy editor at the Chronicle. Photo by Mike Kepka 2013.

My name is Jon Ferguson. As a 51-year-old single copy editor who is generally in good health, I’ve had years without doctor visits and in general had minimal out-of-pocket expenses for health care. But I recognize I’m hitting an age where more health care needs are likely.

In 2012, I incurred the diagnosis of a cancerous melanoma, including surgery to remove a patch of skin, but thankfully it was caught early and effectively treated by Kaiser.

I hope to continue with Kaiser if we elect to go on Hearst’s health care plans, but the employee expense should we switch will rise 160 percent. Even shifting to a deductible plan would be a significant increase. The boost effectively means a pay cut for me of 1 to 2 years until Hearst’s proposed 1.5 percent raises add up to enough to cover the increase. Other co-workers, depending on their pay and family status, could effectively be facing a take-home pay cut for up to five years until the raises cover the increased costs. And this assumes no future increases for the course of the contract, which is far from guaranteed, especially since the Guild would relinquish all of its current shared control over the health care system.

It’s incumbent upon each one of you to take a careful look at the proposed plans, do the math on the payroll contribution costs and the plan co-pays and deductibles compared with your present plan, and see where you stand individually and as a union member. Health care appears to be the critical factor as we choose how to move forward in our quest to gain a fair contract for our hard work, and we have serious decisions to make.

Health Care 2013 – will the Chronicle be fair?

Lester King has worked at the
Chronicle since 2010.
Photo by Mike Kepka 2013.

I am Lester King. I have been an employee of Hearst Media for nearly two years as an Account Executive and now as an Account manager for Gatelist. I cannot believe how quickly two years has gone by. In this short period of time, there have been management and personnel changes.

I have watched my daughter graduate from high school and leave for college. Her younger brother will do the same this year. I am grateful that my youngest son is only a 4th grader and now I get to watch him grow up as well.

I am a single father doing all that I can for my children. Needless to say, I want to keep my expenses as low as possible especially with the cost of living on the rise.  With a daughter in college, I’d like to be able to help her out with tuition and books. However, that will be quite hard knowing that I’ll have to pay more for health insurance.

As an employee of Hearst, I give my very best every day. It is my sincere hope that Hearst will recognize the efforts of all their employees and do their very best to not dramatically increase our healthcare costs.