Illegally fired newspaper workers settle with Times Union of Albany

The Times Union of Albany has agreed to offer reinstatement to three employees and to pay more than $800,000 in backpay and interest to a total of 11 employees who were laid off by the newspaper in the fall of 2009 in order to settle a case taken up by the National Labor Relations Board.

(The Times Union is owned by New York-based Hearst Corp., which also owns the San Francisco Chronicle.)

The Board ruled in May 2011 that the Times Union violated federal labor law by laying off the employees – from the editorial, marketing and advertising departments – without properly bargaining with the Newspaper Guild of Albany. Newspaper managers put the employees on paid leave and escorted them from the building 45 days before they were officially laid off.

The employees selected for layoff were not chosen by seniority, as the Guild contract had specified, but were graded by supervisors on numerous attributes including productivity and attitude. The contract was expired and a new contract was being negotiated at the time.

The parties had been bargaining over the selection criteria for layoffs but had not reached agreement or impasse on the issue. After informing most of the affected employees that they needed to leave the building, the newspaper told the Guild of its actions and offered to bargain over the selection criteria. But the Guild charged, and the Board agreed, that by removing the employees and making it clear that they were targeted for layoff, managers sent a message that their decision had been made and that bargaining over the selection critieria would be pointless.

The newspaper did not comply with the Board order and in December 2011, the Board filed an application for enforcement with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The parties then entered settlement negotiations through the court’s mediation program, leading to the agreement.

Under the settlement, which was signed June 25, eight employees waived reinstatement but received full backpay plus compounded interest, and were also made whole for loss of pension and medical benefits, for the period from their September 2009 layoff to April 2012. Three employees were offered reinstatement and also received backpay, benefits restoration and interest.

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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer