Eight years of frozen wages at Albany Times Union

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An anniversary not worthy of celebration just passed for workers at the Times Union. On Aug. 1, a company-imposed wage freeze hit its eighth year.

During this time, the Guild has made ten different offers to settle the contract. All have been rejected by the company, which in the last two rejections declined to even come to the negotiating table.

But despite this, the Guild remains committed to continue trying. We will make an eleventh offer, and if that is rejected, then a twelfth offer, a thirteenth offer, and so on… We will not stop until we have reached a fair deal for the hard-working TU employees and their families.

If you support the Guild’s efforts, please share this message on social media (on Twitter use the hashtag #tufamilies) and call 454.5555 to urge Publisher George Heart to come back to the negotiating table and reach a fair settlement with his employees.

What is morale and why does it sag?

Worker morale being tested at Times Union

One of the most succinct definitions of morale came from Albert Sydney Johnson, a Kentucky native who was a Confederate general during the Civil War.

Morale, he wrote, is “faith in the man at the top.”

This month, it brought the Albany Newspaper Guild no pleasure to reveal that morale among the hard-working families at the Times Union, in a word, stinks.

And also to say there is only one place to lay responsibility. At the top.

The Hearst Corp. has imposed a wage freeze that will reach its 8th year in August. That has come at a time when staff in various departments continues to shrink, and those workers who remain are being asked to do more and more as goals continue to climb. Due to their efforts, the work continues to get done.

But as the work load grows heavier and heavier, people who work at the Times Union continue to see their standard of living erode, year after year as bills rise, but the paycheck never changes.

Meanwhile, the company continues to demand exactly what it started demanding in 2008: Workers must hand over complete rights to outsourcing of any job and also destroy a seniority system where a 20-year employee would be shown the door before someone hired the day before yesterday.

Even then, the wages will not move. The company offers a one-shot payment, most of which will get swallowed up by taxes and the inevitable increase in health insurance costs.

Multiple attempts to negotiate a reasonable compromise have ended with the same answer: NO.

People who work here are not stupid. They know that agreeing to such one-sided terms will mean that some people will lose their jobs right away and others will lose their jobs in the days that follow. How many people is anyone’s guess.

Morale can only further suffer the longer this goes on…

Each year, the Times Union asks workers around the Capital Region to rate their workplaces. And each year, the places that score highest proudly tout their scores as the best employers the region has to offer.

The test is really a test of employee morale. And sadly, the Times Union is failing its own test, and failing it badly.

As Albany Guild President Tim O’Brien reported here this month, the Guild asked workers to answer the same questions that the Times Union asked other workers elsewhere. And the results were not pretty.

Three workers in four said they no longer feel appreciated. That was a mirror image of workers at the top workplaces.

More than half of workers said they no longer had confidence in their future at the Times Union. And nine workers out of ten said they felt left in the dark as to how important decisions get made.

And as Johnson noted, morale is really about confidence in leadership. Eight out of ten TU workers said they no longer had that confidence. Eight out of ten…

To quote another American military icon, former President Dwight David Eisenhower: “The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.”

It is inspiring to see the top workplaces in the Capital Region and know that workers there have confidence where they are being led. But the Times Union has work to do before it can make its own best-of list.

And this raises the question as to the role of the Times Union — or any paper for that matter — in its community. That role is not just about writing corporate checks to get a name on, say, the Times Union Center, or another prominent building.

I say one of the most important roles for a newspaper is to be voice for the community and its standards. And when people in that community are in a position where those standards are not being met, to speak up for fairness and justice. To not let those situations fester in the dark…

For those in the community who think the time has come for the company to try a new approach, please call 454.5555. Your support is needed. Thank you.

 

Guild social media campaign comes to Times Union Center marquee

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The Guild continues its ongoing social media campaign with a new message on the marquee at the Times Union Center. This message tells people to keep up with the latest on our web page, our twitter hashtag #tufamilies or through our Facebook postings.

Our members just wrapped up a Facebook campaign posting pictures of themselves holding signs about what the ongoing 7.5 year wage freeze means to them. We have also launched a Twitter effort using the Peeps candy _ joined with the #tupeeps hashtag being used by the newspaper _ to highlight the wage freeze.

TU Plus Raises Equals Fair Deal for TU Families

TUC sign TU Plus

Fair Contract would be a plus at TU

 

As many people now know, the Times Union has begun charging for access to its premium, locally-created stories and other content under a program called TU Plus.

At as little as $1 a week for digital-only access, TU Plus is a great value, and the Guild fully embraces this effort to support the quality journalism produced at the Times Union each and every day.

But the Guild also wants the community to remember, at a time when the Times Union is asking its readers for greater financial support, that the workers who make the Times Union what it is have gone for seven years _ and counting _ under a wage freeze.

The freeze stems from the company’s insistence that the Guild surrender seniority and outsourcing rights in exchange for a very modest one-shot payment, but no raise in annual salary. The Guild has declined to submit to this.

With wages frozen, the average TU family has seen their standard of living drop by about 20 percent during this time as the cost of living continues to increase.

So if the owners of the Times Union really believe in TU Plus, they need to apply it not only to their readers, also to the people who are working harder than ever at the newspaper to create the stories, shoot the photographs, create graphics and advertising copy, sell the ads, and deliver the product.

Please call Publisher George Hearst at 454.5555 and urge him to apply TU Plus to the people who work here.

 

Wages are “Frozen” at Albany Times Union and it’s no fairy tale

Wages stay Frozen at Albany Times Union and it's no fairy tale...

The Disney on Ice show based on the wildly popular “Frozen” is appearing at the Times Union Center through Sunday. And the Albany Newspaper Guild is using this occasion to remind Capital Region residents that something else has been frozen _ the wages for families who work for the Albany Times Union.

Wages have been frozen at the paper for seven years and counting, with no sign of a thaw. For this period, the company has repeatedly offered one-time cash _ but no raise in salary _ in return for the union handing over all rights over outsourcing of jobs and seniority job protections _ twin demands that union leadership and its members view as leading to the ultimate destruction of this 80-year organization.

During this freeze, hard-working Times Union families have seen their standard of living decline by roughly 20 percent, when cost of living increases are combined with increasing bills for health insurance. Families are cutting back and cutting back to try to keep up. But this cannot go on forever…

During this season of compassion and empathy for others, the Guild is asking that people call up Times Union Publisher George Hearst at 454.5555 and tell him that the freeze has gone on long enough. It is time to fairly compensate the people who write, illustrate, deliver and sell the ads _ all of whom help make Times Union the important community voice that it is.

Guild takes contract awareness campaign to UAlbany event

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In its ongoing efforts to let the public know about the lack of a fair contract and seven-year wage freeze at the Times Union, the Guild showed up at last night’s Citizen Laureate dinner for the University at Albany Foundation.

Braving a cold drizzle, Guild members handed out leaflets and held signs at the entrance of the SEFCU Center as people arrived to attend the annual dinner, which was hosted by Times Union Publisher George Hearst. He is chairman of the foundation’s board of directors.

It was the second public action by the Guild in less than a month. In October, Guild members were outside Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady for the North American premier of the traveling production of the musical “Newsies.”

The Guild leaflet congratulated the winners of the UAlbany award and _ Fr. Kevin Mullen, Phoebe Powell Bender and Daniel Nolan. And it let dinner guests know that Mr. Hearst, who is active in the Capital Region’s charitable community, has “earned a much different reputation among his employees” for freezing TU wages for seven years while “bragging that the Heart Corporation’s newspaper division is the most successful in the industry and that the Times Union remains profitable.”

The message continued: “We appreciate Mr. Hearst’s giving nature in public, but we think his employees deserve equal consideration. We hope you do too and will let him know you think TU employees deserve raises after seven long years.”

Despite those seven years, Mr. Hearst still will not deliver a contract unless the Guild agrees to hand over control of both employee seniority and outsourcing of jobs _ two extreme demands that no other union in the Capital Region, or New York State for that matter, is being asked to do.

Meet the Real Newsies

EXTRA, EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT THE NEWSIES STRUGGLE FOR FAIR DEAL AT THE TIMES UNION

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People at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady who attended Saturday’s North American premier of the touring production of Newies _ a musical based on a newsboys’ strike more than a century ago _ got a chance to hear about the real “newsies” at the Times Union.

Guild members handed out the leaflets that you can see on the previous post, which describe how hard-working families at the TU have had their wages frozen for seven years as the company refuses to negotiate a fair contract.

Hundreds of flyers were distributed and people seemed genuinely interested in learning about the situation, with some expressing surprise that wages had been frozen for so long.