Guild starts dialogue with Press Democrat buyers

Santa Rosa unit bulletin

Your Guild bargaining committee met today with Steve Falk, representative of Sonoma Media Investments, to discuss the outline of a possible new labor agreement at the Press Democrat after the investment group completes its purchase of the paper.

Falk made it clear that the purchase group needs to reduce operating costs to meet its business goals.  He is seeking agreement worth about $500,000 a year in savings from the Guild bargaining unit.

The Guild is willing to consider economic concessions but only on condition that jobs are guaranteed and that employees can recoup their investment if the business meets its targets.  We also want to redefine the Guild bargaining unit to include online and other affiliates of the new Sonoma media group.

Today, we proposed in response to Falk’s wish list a package of savings that add up to more than half a million:

  • Pay cut worth up to $150,000 (about 5%);
  • Suspension of pension contributions (worth about $260,000) if the pension board approves;
  • Suspension of the 401(k) match (worth about $70,000).

The Guild also proposed making the work week 40 hours instead of the current 37.5, amounting to about a 6.7% additional pay cut, instead of the new employer’s preferred additional cuts in differentials and vacations.

We also asked the employer to begin contributing $100,000 per year into the employee 401(k) accounts, roughly $1.15 per hour per full-time employee.  That would be the only remaining employer-paid retirement benefit, although we hope to convince the company that our pension plan is an asset that everyone should try to preserve.  No matter what cost savings we agree to in the negotiations, everyone’s vested pension benefits are guaranteed, with the only question being what future benefits will accrue.

We proposed a two-year moratorium on layoffs as a condition of pay cuts and proposed a mechanism that would reverse the pay cuts or extend the job protections for a third year of the contract, depending on how the business does.

We provided a detailed plan to work out the Guild’s jurisdiction issues.

Derek Moore, unit chair, said, “There is no doubt these proposals represent painful sacrifice.  But they also offer substantial gains for our members, not least of which is job security for the life of the contract.”

Bargaining Committee: Derek Moore, Lori Carter, Lisa Ostroski, and Carl Hall (executive officer).




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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer

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