After reading Publisher George Hearst’s latest e-mail, a colleague stopped me in the hall.
“Did the other unions agree to get rid of their seniority?”
“Did they agree to let the Company outsource their jobs?”
“Then what the hell is George talking about?”
In his message, the publisher said the other four unions in the plant had all agreed to offer concessions due to the changed nature of the business and acted as if your Guild representatives were just refusing to be helpful.
Of the other contracts, I am most familiar with the Teamsters’ pact in the mailroom. And, yes, they made some significant concessions. They lowered starting pay and extended how long it would take to get to the top scale. They made some changes to scheduling that give more, to use George’s favoritie word, flexibility on bringing people in when there is work to be done. And they agreed to “insource” work that they would do, handling packaging from the Connecticut papers, for example.
That all sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? Let me amend this comment a bit, because we didn’t mean to make it sound as if these were not difficult decisions and significant gives from our brothers and sisters in the other unions. They were, and we respect that. But comparing those concessions to what the Company is demanding from us is like comparing apples to orangutans. Allowing unlimited outsourcing and picking and choosing employees to lay off strikes at the fundamental reasons employees have a union.
Of course, the publisher is not proposing we accept the pay raises he gave the Teamsters. Or the bonus days for every sick day they don’t take. Or the generous buyout provisions. (At the time the agreement was reached last year, the Company envisioned building a new press and eventually reducing the ranks of the mailers.) The Company only tends to compare one contract to another when it wants a union to give up something, not when one’ s benefits are better than another.
And Mr. Hearst provides an inaccurate description of the Guild’s statement that the Company has declared “war” on us. We made that comment in reference to the Company’s unprecedented decision to cancel our contract, not as a comment on its bargaining proposals.
The publisher has also repeatedly asserted that he canceled the contract because negotiations were not moving as quickly as he wanted. They’d have moved quicker if he had shown up on time, not canceled as many sessions (because he was too busy with meetings over a new press that now appears doomed) and had not gone five weeks between sessions and then showed up empty-handed.
And here is one last undeniable fact: On the two major issues that Mr. Hearst calls central to these negotiations, the Guild has presented concessions on both. We’ve offered guidelines for outsourcing and to change the rules on layoffs from by department to by job title.
The Company? Its proposal on outsourcing is unchanged. Its proposal on seniority worsened, eliminating the rehire rules.
This week, we have three consecutive days of bargaining. We come to the table, as we have since day one, willing to compromise. We also come knowing we have the full support of the community and our membership should the Company continue to refuse to compromise on the most critical issues we face.