McClatchy and Guild working on money, metrics and marijuana

Guild-McClatchy bargaining bulletin
February 8, 2018

Bargaining continued in late January, early February at all four McClatchy California units (The Modesto Bee, The Fresno Bee, The Sacramento Bee and News Desk West). Negotiations took place in all three cities. Full contracts are up at Modesto, Fresno and News Desk West while Sacramento has a reopener (its full contract expires Dec. 31, 2018).

The guild and company were able to narrow bargaining to a few core issues during each of the sessions. They include the new metrics for page view goals, seniority language in the case of layoffs, minimum salary levels and merit pay scales, equipment reimbursement, and drug policy

Page View Goals:

In all three editorial newsroom units (Modesto, Fresno and Sacramento), the company wants to include page view goals and metrics in employees’ job performance reviews. But, at least for 2018, our raises would not be tied to whether we hit those page view goals. By including the metrics, but not evaluating performance based on the results, the company said it wants to ensure “best practices” are being followed for online engagement. Then in 2019, the company said it intends to start tying the metrics to merit pay.

The company is working on new feedback forms with page view metrics language at the three editorial units and will share them with the guild when they are completed.

Seniority Language:

In Modesto and Fresno, the company also wants to change the existing job security language in case of involuntary layoffs to the language in the Sacramento and News Desk West contracts. Currently, both Modesto and Fresno have seniority as the most important factor in determining layoffs. With the new language, the company has said its priorities for layoffs will be: 1) the work left to be done, 2) past job performance reviews, and 3) seniority.

The guild has pushed back in both units at weakening the seniority language. In Modesto, the guild said it would only consider changing the language if the company tied it to grandfathering existing employees to a higher rate of severance pay. All Modesto employees are currently capped at 26 weeks. In the other units veteran employees can receive up to 40 weeks of severance, with only new employees capped at 26 weeks.

In Fresno, the guild said it would be willing to include the phrase “ability to perform the work left to be done” in its existing language. Currently Fresno’s contract reads: “When deciding on layoffs, consideration shall be given to employees’ competence, previous job performance and length of service. If in the Publisher’s judgment all of the above factors are equal, length of service shall be the determining factor.”

Salary Minimums:

In all of the units the guild is would like to raise the salary minimums for some of the classifications. In Modesto we would like to see an increase to $20 for beginning, $25 for experienced reporters/photographers/content producers (currently at $18.53 and $21.20 respectively), and $20 for information specialists (currently at $15.87).

In Fresno the guild has proposed a raise in the minimums to $21 beginning, $26 experienced for reporters/photographers/content producers/artists (currently at and $18.95 and $22.63 respectively) and $18 for information aids (currently at $11.05).

In Sacramento and News Desk West no specific numbers have been discussed yet.

The company said it would look into the salary minimums and get back to us for all the units.

Merit Pay Scales:

The guild also wants to make adjustment to the merit pay scales in Fresno and Modesto, which had been set to give those who making less larger raises than those at the top-end of the pay scale. The reasoning was to move those lower-paid employees up to the level of the higher paid employees more quickly. In light of ongoing staff reductions, those scales have become somewhat obsolete given the dwindling numbers in the newsrooms. In both newsrooms the guild seeks to contract the scales, eliminating tiers where few or no employees fall. The company has said it will look into the scales and get back to us.

Equipment Reimbursement:

In Sacramento and News Desk West, the company wants to add language allowing for $60 per month for cell phone reimbursement without providing itemized documentation. Currently itemized documentation is required to receive any amount of cell reimbursement.

In Fresno, no cell language is in the contract because all employees have been given company phones. The guild asked for a commitment from the company to continue providing all employees phones, which was given.

Also in Fresno the company sought to delete language giving a $10 a week stipend to photographers required to drive their own cars. The guild pushed back and the company instead agreed to lump the annual dollar amount of the stipend ($480) into each existing photographers’ base pay.

In Modesto, the current non-itemized deduction levels are $30 for cell, $30 for data/internet. The guild would like to wrap those two into one reimbursement of $60. The company said it will look into the numbers and get back to us.

Also in Modesto the guild sought reassurance from the company that employees off-site daily parking would be paid for through the duration of the contract. The company said it has a five-year lease on its current parking spaces.

Drug Policy:

In each unit, the guild has stressed that the company’s existing drug policy should be updated to reflect marijuana legalization in California and the difficulty in testing for cannabis impairment. The company refuses to alter its company-wide policy unless and until marijuana is legal under Federal law. The guild said it plans to push back on corresponding disciplinary action in the future.

No new bargaining dates have been set, but both sides agreed to try to resolve some of the remaining issues over conference calls. The guild is still waiting to hear back on the new JPR forms and new employee job titles/descriptions since reinvention at each unit.

Bargaining for the guild were Pacific Media Workers Executive Office Carl Hall, Administrative Officer Kat Anderson and McClatchy Unity Committee Chair Marijke Rowland in addition to representatives from each respective unit’s bargaining committee.

The company was represented by McClatchy Regional Vice President for Human Resources Linda Brooks and attorney Aaron Agenbroad along with each location’s respective editorial management.

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Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.