Your Guild bargaining committee members initiated negotiations with management Wednesday. Committee members pushed your one priority: raises for all. We proposed a cost-of-living increase of 2.3% plus an additional 2% – across the board – and an IRS mileage reimbursement rate for a one-year term.
Discussion made it clear that the Company would rather forestall negotiations for at least 60 days. However, the contract extension expires on Sept. 30. We meet with management again on Sept. 22.
Executive Officer Carl Hall opened bargaining with a brief review of the early days of this unit. He shared his disappointments about the East Bay contract’s failure to progress. “It’s frustrating to me and my frustration is not helpful,” Hall said. “We want this to be a productive round of bargaining.”
Kat Anderson, administrative officer, coordinated the rest of the talks. She suggested to management that BANG East Bay workers feel like stepchildren when compared to Merc workers. “I’d like to think you would have been interested in achieving equality with the Merc, and not by them going down but by bringing us up to the Merc standard,” Anderson said.
Dan Rosenstrauch, a 40-year veteran photographer, recalled low wages earlier in his career but always thought workers would pick up increases along the way. “You don’t get paid to put heart and soul in the newspaper,” Rosenstrauch said. “The product can’t get better with great people leaving. People just don’t have trust in the company any more. When I go out on assignments, I hear ‘what happened to your paper?’”
George Kelly, breaking news team reporter, weighed whether or not to seek a seat on the company’s just-assembled task forces but decided: “I’m on the panel I want to be on, and that is here sitting at the table across from you.”
When pressed, Marshall Anstandig – company counsel – acknowledged that attrition was contributing to the bottom line. “Leaving keeps us even. When positions go dark, there’s a savings.” Anstandig outlined what other companies have tried, including combining papers, publishing fewer days, and cutting home delivery.
“We have to come up with a different structure. What that looks like, we don’t know,” Anstandig said. “We set an internal goal of 60 days, and then we can address what it is we are looking for.”
Anderson pointed out that we all bear the brunt of increased work, and therefore should share in increases, adding that the notion of “merit” is not the priority – raises for all is. Anstandig then tried to counter with recent years’ profit-sharing payouts and mentioned the one upcoming.
Crunching union-requested data from the Company, database editor Danny Willis realized that there is “essentially no discernable increase in pay over time based on how long someone has worked here. You need to go back to the 1980s to see any curve at all. I don’t get how this situation exists. People hired a decade ago make less on average than people hired this year.”
Before unit leaders shared our proposal, Anstandig said the Board of Directors wanted to analyze the fiscal year’s first two quarters to see if conditions would allow a merit payout. He said the Board is working up a new business plan. The Guild offered, therefore, to be involved in the creation of that plan.
Anstandig invited all ideas.
The Guild said investing in an across-the-board raise for everyone was a good way to start. “We’d like you to bring to the board a new deal,” Anderson said. “If you could get agreement on this, what a morale booster that would be.”
Representing the union: George Kelly, Danny Willis, Dan Rosenstrauch, Jennifer Modenessi and Kat Anderson (Guild rep).
Representing the Company: Shannon Hogan and Marshall Anstandig (counsel).