Tim O’Brien here.
It was an interesting day, to say the least.
It began with one of my editorial colleagues walking up to me, very upset.
“I just talked to one of my friends in advertising,” she said. “Apparently they had some meeting today with George, and there were some people complaining to him about the Guild who haven’t paid their dues or come to any of the union meetings.”
In short order, I heard from a few other advertising colleagues who were also at the meeting. They wanted to speak up in defense of the Guild, they said, but they found the forum very intimidating.
I invited some of those who expressed their concerns, as well as other leaders in advertising, to speak to me directly. Some were glad to do so. Others beefed about ‘moles’ disclosing what they said.
The central complaint was over the voting process. As in every past contract negotiation, we’ve scheduled the meeting at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon because that’s when the fewest number of people work. We meet off the premises so members can feel comfortable talking. And we talk with each other before the secret ballots are cast so that people get a full airing of others’ concerns.
Some people have inquired about a second voting day. I’ve made some inquiries with the International union about that. There are rules, of course, about securing the ballot box that must be followed. I have not closed the door on it, but I need some legal answers before a final decision can be made.
One of my editorial colleagues heard me discussing that and walked over to say, as adamantly as some of the folks upstairs want a second voting date, that it should not be allowed. “These people need to come to the meeting and hear what others have to say,” this member said: No drive-by voting.
It’s not easy being me.
I also got an e-mail from one person demanding that I provide proof the failure to pay dues meant he could not vote. I was legally required to do this, he said, and he expected me to produce it immediately!
Um, dude, I replied (OK, I left out the dude part) I’m working right now so I can’t get it ‘immediately’ but yes I will get it to you.
At lunch time, I ate with some colleagues from a different end of advertising. One of them made a witty comment I have to share.
“The rule should be that if someone votes yes on this contract, then their jobs should be among the ones that could be outsourced,” he said. “If you vote no, then the company should not be able to outsource your job.”
I had to laugh. The inverse is true, of course. The more you think your job would be safe, the less likely you are to oppose this agreement. The more you think your job would be eliminated, the less likely you are to vote for this agreement.
I am told one of the things the publisher said upstairs was that he did not intend to lay off the district managers and outsource their jobs. “That’s great,” one of my colleagues said with a grin. “Now will he put that in writing?”
Of course, the publisher refused to put in writing a bar against outsourcing any jobs. And the drivers too were told that the Company had ‘no plans’ to eliminate all their jobs. And now they have.
At the end of the day, I heard from one of my advertising colleagues I very much respect even though we occasionally have different views. After discussing her views on the voting issue, she asked if the Guild might be able to offer an alternative health care plan. From what she was hearing from her direct colleagues, she said, that was the biggest issue.
She was very sincere, but I was stunned. Everyone I’ve heard from to date has identified outsourcing as the biggest issue in these negotiations. If the company’s proposal is defeated, that will undoubtedly be why.
But then I thought her remark was very interesting. Last year, as you know, the Company pushed very, very hard to get us to switch to this health care plan. They were willing to push it through even if the members had voted it down. And, in the end, it turned out not to be the good deal the Company said it was.
Wow, I thought. That sounds familiar. And if people vote for this agreement now, I thought, next year they will be expressing similar regrets about buying into something the Company pushed and realizing too late it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.