The Newspaper Guild in Seattle is suing Hearst in Seattle after the newspaper created an online-only reporter position and claimed it was exempt from the contract. This is an important fight. As we heard from our own publisher, the newspaper will become only part of the work done at the Times Union in the future as more and more readers migrate to the Internet.
For the same reason, our local is pursuing a grievance over the hiring of a “design director” for the new At Home magazine as an exempt position. (Not a soul on the lengthy masthead is Guild-covered, though ad sales people sell into it and business office workers handle billing.) As these niche products become more and more part of what we do, we need to make sure that work is done by Guild members. Our very livelihood is at stake.
We’ve heard a lot about the need for flexibility. We offered to make the design director position exempt from overtime for a two-year trial basis and to exempt the position from the seniority language on layoffs for that same period. (The Company argued it could not be sure the magazine would last.) The Company rejected our willingness to be flexible, instead proposing we just let the position be exempt for two years and then talk. In the meantime, the Company is gearing up to start several other new niche magazines…
You’ll also note that the Guild in Seattle did an excellent job of letting the reporter feel welcome and making it clear the issue was not her at all. It was the Company’s effort to get around the contract.