The North Bay newspaper’s Pulitzer – in the Breaking News category – continues an impressive run of journalism for newsrooms covered by the Pacific Media Workers Guild. The East Bay Times won a Pulitzer in 2016 for breaking news coverage of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
Press Democrat management continues to cite uncertainty in the news industry, rising health care costs and other factors as limits on what it can offer employees. Guild negotiators, also cognizant of these realities, sought reasonable pay increases in the 3 to 5 percent range and to limit increases in escalating health care costs for employees. But management balked at the offer.
Management is now proposing a 1 percent annual pay increase for employees who meet acceptable performance standards. Health care costs would remain the same for 2016, but by 2017, more of the financial burden would shift to employees and eventually there would be no cap on the employee share at all.
The two sides agreed to a substantial increase in cell phone stipends from $50 to $65 per month. In addition, new rules will allow parents returning to work to seek a part-time schedule for up to one year so long as the scheduling needs can be worked out with a supervisor.
Guild negotiators have made it clear that employees expect to recover some of the ground they lost after they voluntarily agreed to significant concessions so that Sonoma Media Investments could complete its purchase of the paper in 2012.
Management offered a contract with no guaranteed pay increases, instead asking the union to accept what non-union employees would get, and to tie any increases to performance reviews. It also sought to raise the employee share of health costs, take away a week of sick leave accrual and eliminate the no-layoff guarantee. The union’s proposals include wage increases, higher employer contributions to the 401K, continuation of no-layoff provisions and enhanced work-life benefits.
Press Democrat Guild members met with management in Rohnert Park as talks got underway for the next labor agreement. The Guild presented a list of contract demands that included significant pay increases, improvements to retirement benefits, job security and work-life balance concerns. Management outlined the general state of business operations, including what it said are pressures on advertising revenues and costs related to investments in new technologies.
Derek Moore, a reporter at The Press Democrat and chair of the Guild unit in Santa Rosa, has been appointed interim President of the Pacific Media Workers Guild following the resignation of Rebecca Rosen Lum.