I heard today from many of my colleagues about anti-union comments posted by Kristi Gustafson Barlette on her Times Union Facebook page.
“I find unions protect the weak, and don’t produce viable results. People don’t DESERVE raises, they earn them,” Kristi wrote in response to a reader. She went on to add: “If you believe you should earn more, and your company doesn’t give it to you, then leave — find another job.”
Kristi’s comments were viewed by many of her colleagues in the newsroom as a slap in the face. It has been five years since employees at the Times Union have had a raise, and it is not because employees don’t “deserve” one. And they should not have to leave to get one.
But let me back up a minute: I have to say any interaction I’ve ever had with Kristi has been pleasant. We have a good professional relationship. Recently we’ve worked well together to boost traffic to the Getting There blog, and her advice has proven successful. I expect to continue to work well with her.
But I agree with the many employees who contacted me after seeing her remarks. They are offensive. I think Kristi owes her colleagues an apology. It is distasteful and unprofessional for a member of management, which Kristi now is, to suggest her fellow employees who have not received raises don’t deserve them and that they should quit if they don’t like it.
And she is dead wrong about unions, in general and the Guild specifically. Ironically, I remember when Kristi was an editorial assistant and came to me, upset because a member of management had said if she wanted to be a reporter, she should leave, get experience elsewhere and then apply to come back. I told her that two of her colleagues, Bob Gardinier and Dennis Yusko, had been told the same thing. They persevered and became reporters. I advised her to do the same. She did and succeeded.
To say the Guild exists to protect the weak is nonsense. I could go on at length but let me give just a couple of real-life examples of what the union actually stands for.
When the Times Union wanted to outsource our print shop coordinator’s job to Connecticut, the Guild worked with him, proved he did more than the company gave him credit for and saved his job. When a colleague named Terri Currie was dying of cancer, her co-workers wanted to donate some of their sick time to her. The company would not allow it. I fought for years to obtain that benefit and finally did during our last round of negotiations (even though that did not lead to a contract). Two employees since have been able to be out on extended sick leave without losing pay, thanks to the Guild.
We’ve bargained a paid week off for new parents, a benefit for those who adopt and space for nursing mothers to pump breast milk.
That’s not “protecting the weak.” And those are the “viable results” good unions produce.