HEARST RELENTS AT 11th HOUR, SETTLING NLRB COMPLAINT JUST AS LAW JUDGE WAS ABOUT TO OPEN HEARING
November 8, 2017— After a year of stonewalling, Hearst Corp. finally agreed at the outset of a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Tuesday to provide the Guild access to documents needed to investigate a suspected pattern of discriminatory pay practices skewed against women, people of color and older workers. The Chronicle is one of many newspapers where employees suspect inequities in compensation.
The Pacific Media Workers Guild and Hearst representatives settled an NLRB complaint against Hearst, the New York-based corporate owner of the Chronicle and SFGate.com. The complaint alleged that Hearst violated federal labor law by failing to provide the Union with needed information and unreasonably delaying.
The deal came just as a hearing on the NLRB complaint was about to start before an administrative law judge in San Francisco. Attorneys helped work out agreement for documents and payroll data the union first demanded in September 2016.
For most union-covered employees, the Guild contract provides a minimum pay level, known as “scale,” while pay above the minimum, known as “overscale,” is left up to individual managers and employees. The Chronicle denies any discrimination in the way overscale has been awarded over the years. However, the Chronicle also confirmed as part of the NLRB deal that it has never conducted an internal audit of its pay system to ensure its fairness, and said it has not based any pay decisions on written policies or guidelines.
The Guild’s labor agreement with the Chronicle bans discrimination and requires the company to meet with the Guild to discuss “diversity concerns.” Chronicle management had initially refused even to meet, although it later relented after a grievance was lodged.
Contract talks are underway for a new labor accord at the newspaper company and the Guild is insisting on fair pay. We proposed an across-the-board pay raise for all workers of 5 percent each year of a 3-year contract. Management so far has proposed only an unspecified “merit pay” system that would do away with guaranteed raises. Talks continue later this month.
Representing the Guild at the NLRB on Tuesday: Attorney Susan K. Garea of Beeson Tayer & Bodine, Administrative Officer Kat Anderson and Executive Officer Carl Hall.
Hearst/SF Chronicle were represented by Hearst staff counsel Aryn Sobo, attorney Mark Batten of the Proskauer law firm and Human Resources Vice President Renee Peterson.