COMPANY DECLARES WAR ON GUILD

In an effort to get employees to swallow all of its demands, the Company today filed notice it would cancel our contract on April 9.

“The message to members is that if you don’t allow the Company to gut your contract, it will launch an unprecedented assault on your union,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said.

Canceling the contract would mean the union would no longer be able to take grievances to an independent arbitrator. The Company also claims it will be able to cease deducting dues from your paycheck. The union disagrees and will seek help from the Guild International.

“This in no way allows the Company to impose the contract language that it wants,” O’Brien said. “It cannot lay people off while ignoring the seniority language or outsource our work. This is meant to force the union to its knees because your bargaining team has stood up for you and continues to stand up for you.”

O’Brien told Publisher George Hearst it was the dumbest move the Company could make. The union has tremendous support from labor leaders in the Capital Region. “If the Company wants to target the union, the Guild will have no choice but to respond in kind, preparing to launch a circulation and advertising boycott should the Company follow through on its threat and cancel the contract.”

The move also came at the end of a day when the Guild leadership offered significant concessions: including a 5 percent across-the-board wage cut, the elimination of overtime until employees have worked 40 hours a week (not just 7.5 hours a day), the end of the bonus day for those who never take sick time.

Later in the day, the Guild offered an amendment to the layoff language, allowing the Company to lay off employees by job title rather than department: Layoffs would still have to be done by reverse order of seniority, a significant give on the union’s part.

The Company said it intends to lay off 20-25 percent of Guild members, but the numbers it provided — 65 to 70 workers — make up closer to 30 percent of the bargaining unit.

And what did the Company come to the table with Tuesday? A regression on its proposal on layoffs. It not only wants to be able to lay anyone off despite how long and loyal their service, the Company added to that today by removing any reference to a rehiring list.

“Every member of the Guild who values their contract and their union will be asked to step up and mobilize effective immediately,” O’Brien said.

The union’s Executive Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Albany Labor Temple to plan its strategy.

Bargaining resumes at 1 p.m. Wednesday. All members who can make the meeting should attend.

18 thoughts on “COMPANY DECLARES WAR ON GUILD

  1. what’s the significance of changing the layoff language to allow the company to lay off employees ‘by job title rather than department’? please explain.

  2. Tim O’Brien here. Here’s the answer: Under the current language, layoffs have to be by reverse order of seniority by department. So in editorial, for example, if four of the last five hires were reporters, the Company would have to lay off all the reporters before they got to a content editor, page designer or anyone else higher on the list.

    So if the Company was looking to eliminate three reporters, one content editor and one page designer, it would have to lay off everyone on the list to get to people in those positions. It could then go back and rehire the additional reporter or two it didn’t really want to let go.

    Under our proposal, the Company could lay off people by job title so it would not lay off people and then immediately rehire some of them. We recognize some people might fear it would make them more vulnerable to a potential layoff, but we think it’s more realistic. Sadly, the Company not only failed to recognize this as a significant move on our part; it put a regressive proposal of its own on the table and then told us it would cancel the contract.

    Layoffs would still be by reverse order of seniority.

  3. Why did the company pass out those celebratory mugs if the increase in viewership had no tangible effect? Why does the company send out messages about how well the paper is doing compared to other papers if that’s not the case? Why has there recently been talk of a new press if conditions are so poor? Why was Aldam promoted if all this happened under his watch? Why did Extreme Makeover visit the building if hardly anyone will be around to enjoy the furnishings? It doesn’t add up.

  4. Increased readership doesn’t mean increased ad revenue, if that increase is people reading online and not picking up a newspaper.

  5. War is the right word. What an unfortunate turn of events. I’m not sure if Mr. Hearst knows what he’s gotten his company into. The members of the Guild have tremendous support, not only from other areas unions, but from a huge network of people throughout the Capital Region. If they are upset about circulation now, I’d hate to see what the numbers will look like if we are forced to launch a public information campaign about the way the company has treated us.
    We have to stand united and be as loud as possible. Each and every one of our jobs are on the line here.

  6. All you have to do is look at what the Classifieds have in them now. Compare it to a paper from a year ago, or 3 years ago. They are hurting and those ads are not coming back, no matter what they try. They are not operating under the same margins that they enjoyed under Dave White.

  7. I don’t have words to express the breach of trust I — and I’m sure other members — feel right now.
    One of the bitterest aspects of this is the apparent lack of interest in either appreciating or considering any of the Guild’s good-faith efforts to contribute to a solution. That is: help save our newspaper without destroying its quality entirely.
    While it may not solve the entire problem, it seems like the concessions we have proposed could genuinely prevent some layoffs as we weather this storm.

  8. Let me get this straight. The Guild offers an ACROSS-THE-BOARD 5 PERCENT WAGE CUT (which I probably wouldn’t vote to approve unless the company confidentially opened its books to demonstrate that it, too, is losing money) and increased flexibility to the seniority layoff provision, in addition to smaller concessions, and Hearst shows its gratitude with a hostile act, canceling the contract?

    That’s not a negotiation.

    That’s a clear message Hearst under its new CEO believes it’s in its best interest to “negotiate” in bad faith, which is to say, not to negotiate.

    We are not unreasonable people. We are people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and it’s disheartening to discover the company for whom we work thinks otherwise.

  9. Be certain of one thing – this is an attack on each and every one of us. All of the lip service that we’ve heard about dignity, respect, and kindness has clearly been just that.

    We have all been busting our humps, working harder than ever to fill the gaps left by buyouts, unfilled positions – doing more with less I believe is the term used by the company. No raise going on 2 years now. Switching our health insurance to a less than desirable plan. All to help our company through this awful time.

    Our pat on the back for our hard work and sacrifice? Suspensions, disciplinary letters, performance improvement plans, final warning letters, and oh, don’t forget – we’re no longer going to respect your contract! Don’t like it – too damn bad. We’re the company and we make all the decisions.

    Mad as hell? Show it folks! Tell everyone you know what their “hometown newspaper” is doing to it’s workers. This community will understand an attack on seniority – we’re a big union town.

    Maybe it’s time for Shame to make a comeback. Shame on the Times Union for treating it’s workers like this!

    Inflate that Rat!!!!!

  10. I agree with Confused. Companies sending mixed messages to employees seems to be the norm these days. TU appears to want to get past the senority issue so they can pick and choose who they want to let go. (Probably older employees with a pension and higher salary). Senority is a precious benefit that must be protected by all unions. Time for other unions to stand tall with the Guild and fight this unjustice!!

  11. Paint. Slogans on a conference room wall. New furniture that looks like “seconds” from IKEA. Mugs touting an increase of 9 percent in something or other. Don’t forget the carpeting.

    What is this company thinking? It is time to let all our friends in organized labor, and our friends in City Halls and county legislatures, know just what is going on here. If Hearst Corp. thinks this union is a few people in a room, they’d better think again. Maybe they need to be told…through a collection of circulation boycott cards to be dumped on the table…that this isn’t Texas. And how would this community (readers and advertisers) feel about an outsourced Times Union?

  12. My heart goes out to all my former colleagues. A publication – a business of any kind – is nothing without its employees. Watching the paper tear apart its greatest, most marketable resource not only breaks my journalism-lovin’ heart, but also demonstrates, yet again, why the industry, and Hearst papers, are in so much trouble. I may not be there any more in person, but I’m sure I’m not the only former TU’er who’s behind you all in spirit.

  13. I hope all the rank-and-file members realize that we are now beyond the time for asking our leadership what they can do for us. It is now time to ask them what WE can do for THEM.

  14. I second the emotion of Former Employee, it is very distressing to see how Hearst has turned on its devoted, hard working employees in this time of national crisis and I know the betrayal you all must be feeling. This situation is to some degree I feel, the result of years and years of mismanagement in advertising. Bad decisions followed bad publishers with the net result being local advertising was banished from the paper, despite repeated advice to the contrary from corporate hired consultants. David White once told me that he’d rather have a few expensive ads than a lot of cheap ads in the paper. This is the brilliant, forward thinking vision that has led this paper, and most of the others to the edge of bankruptcy.

  15. When is enough…ENOUGH??? We tried to bend because we understand times are tough, but that’s not good enough???

    We settle on a crappy health insurance to save the company money, we offer to go 1 week with out pay to save the company money, we offer to take a 5% pay cut to save the company money and help save jobs, BUT it STILL not good enough.

    George says he “understands the anxiety this is causing”??? He should come out on the floors and hear some of the stories we are hearing of people scared about getting laid off and not being able to afford Cobra, and single parents scared on how they will pay their bills, and people spouses that are also laid off and now they maybe facing that as well!!!

    We offered to take a pay cut, and sacrifice many other things to help….What is George sacrificing to help?? If he would take a 5% pay cut..maybe then TU employees will feel like this is REALLY effecting everybody!!!!

    Times Union…WE ARE NOT GIVING IN!

    Let’s really start letting the Capital Region know about the Times Union and what’s going on! Let’s get together with our other Union sisters and brothers and FIGHT!

    DUST OFF THE RAT…………IT’S SHOW TIME!!!!!!!!!!

  16. “A better future for the Times Union.”
    Right. My recollection of nearly 20 years ago,
    of more modest and entirely voluntary staff reductions, is that even the publisher at the time acknowledged the newspaper would be “less good” as a result.

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