In a letter to Publisher George Hearst today, Guild President Tim O’Brien said the union is willing to negotiate a settlement of the case brought by the National Labor Relations Board but that a settlement of the contract and a long-overdue raise should be part of any deal.
“It has been almost five years since your employees received a raise,” O’Brien wrote. “Workers at the Times Union are asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer colleagues to share the workload. Advertising commissions have been slashed, people are struggling to pay medical bills, and some have had to take second jobs to make ends meet.”
In his annual letter to employees, Hearst CEO Frank Bennack said the company saw record profits and revenues in 2011. While the union was glad to hear the news, O’Brien wrote, “it also stung to read those words while we here in Albany are being deprived of a raise and contract for, as you put it, too long.”
The reason a settlement has been delayed is the company’s attempt to strip employees of the right to bargain over layoffs and outsourcing.
“The national mood has begun to shift against large companies that sit on record profits and decline to share them with employees,” O’Brien told the publisher. “We have seen in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere across the country the backlash caused by leaders trying to deprive workers of bargaining rights.”
The union has offered unprecedented flexibility in both those areas that still gives employees some say.
“We invite you to join us in compromising,” O’Brien concluded. “When you are ready to discuss a full settlement of all the outstanding issues, please contact us and we will gladly schedule a meeting with you.”
The publisher proposed settling only the case that stems from his decision in 2009 to break the law and illegally lay off 11 workers. The Times Union was found guilty of breaking the law after a hearing in 2010, and that decision was unanimously upheld by the full board in Washington, D.C. The newspaper has been ordered to pay back wages to the workers, reinstate whoever wishes to return and bargain in good faith over future layoffs.
O’Brien had warned Hearst in 2009 as soon as the layoffs started that they were illegal and told him to stop. The union would have no choice but to file a complaint with the NLRB if the layoffs continued, the publisher was told. Hearst made a choice to continue the illegal layoffs anyway. For more than two years, he has dragged out the case with fruitless appeals. But now the NLRB is taking the Times Union to court to enforce the order.