Fresno Bee members ratify a 3-year contract

Fresno Bee Guild member Barbara Anderson just voted to ratify a new three-year contract.  Photo courtesy Bethany Clough 2014.
Fresno Bee Guild member Barbara Anderson just voted to ratify a new three-year contract. Photo courtesy Bethany Clough 2014.

After six months of bargaining, Fresno Bee Guild members voted Thursday to approve a new three-year contract. A huge thank you goes out to all of you who participated at the bargaining table or gave feedback on the social media policy and other issues. Times are still tough, but the Guild had several wins in this contract, including the addition of a side letter to the social media policy that has major protections for employees, a mileage stipend for photographers, an agreement that the company ask for buyouts before doing layoffs and additional notice should a consolidation of copy desks happen.

Expect to see the social media side letter distributed soon. The bargaining on that topic is a prime example of the Guild’s importance. McClatchy newspapers without unions don’t have the additional protections that we won.

Here’s a summary of the agreement:

Duration: Three years, expiring December 31, 2016.

Wages: Pay will be frozen in year one, with wage re-openers in years two and three.

Health insurance: We will still receive the same benefits and options as management and other non-represented employees, though there were administrative changes to the language, consistent with similar changes negotiated in Sacramento.

Expenses: Mileage will rise to 44 cents effective June 1, though the contract still will state that we receive the same reimbursement as non-represented employees. In addition, photographers now will receive a $10 per week stipend in addition to their mileage guarantee.

Jurisdiction: Our agreement makes clear that the company can assign non-bargaining unit work to Guild employees – a change negotiated in the event that a copy desk hub is created in Fresno.

Part-time and temporary employees: Management now can continue the employment of an employee in a student job for up to three months after the employee no longer is a student.

Senior writer: Management will have the right to designate up to three reporters as “senior writers,” — two at first, a third effective January 2015 — similar to a provision in the Sacramento agreement. Employees so designated will be exempt from overtime and will be paid no less than the columnist scale. An employee has the right to refuse the senior writer designation. Any employee who accepts the designation as senior writer has the right to return to his or her former classification upon 30 days’ notice to management.

Layoffs: We negotiated modest, discretionary language stating that the company will request buyouts before layoffs.

Sick leave: The six-month waiting period for new full-time employees will be eliminated. The threshold for sick leave eligibility will rise from 20 to 30 hours effective January 1, 2015; the only current employee who would be affected by that change will be grandfathered.

Furloughs: Management will have the right to implement up to one week of unpaid furlough in each year of the agreement, plus one additional week during the term of the contract. (That’s a maximum of four furloughs during the three-year agreement – the same as our expired contract.)

Copy desk: We negotiated a new transition agreement for copy editors who might be affected by a possible work transfer from Fresno to the Editorial Production Center in Sacramento. The agreement largely is patterned on an agreement made for Modesto copy editors who moved to Sacramento. It includes a job guarantee at the new production center; up to $5,000 in moving expenses; a transition bonus of one week of pay for each year of service for each copy editor who takes a job in Sacramento; and other benefits. One key difference between the Modesto and Fresno transition agreements involves severance pay; our severance in Fresno has a more generous grandfathering provision for employees eligible for more than 26 weeks of severance, and the transition agreement accounts for that. We also negotiated an additional 90-day notice of plans to consolidate the department, which would be in addition to the 30-day notice to individuals that their job is moving in the existing agreement. The company also agreed to make a “good faith” effort to help employees laid off from consolidation find alternative positions at the Bee that they are qualified for.

Social media policy: The policy that already has been ratified in Modesto and Sacramento will become part of the Fresno contract. It addresses many of the concerns raised by members in Fresno, as well as by Guild members in Modesto and Sacramento.

Your Guild negotiators included Unit Chair Bethany Clough, Sarah Nettels, Donald Munro, Mike Reddin, Delton Lowery, Barbara Anderson, Joshua Tehee, Craig Kohlruss and Guild representative Darren Carroll.

The company negotiators included attorney Bob Ford, HR Director Mark Ochinero, and John Rich.

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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer