Contract talks focus on safety and health

Bargainers left the confines of the conference room and walked around the building to discuss health and safety issues today.

Beforehand, the union and company negotiators discussed concerns about air quality and the dangers of simply walking across the parking lot in rainy or icy weather.

Terry Brown of Editorial discussed how the air in the building aggravated his system, already sensitive from his service in the first Gulf War. “I can tell when there is mold in the room,” he said. “In the course of a year, there are some days when the system takes in pollutants you can see, feel and even taste.”

The tour stopped at Terry’s desk, where the vent over his desk was thick with dirt and dust.

Guild bargainers also talked about the hazards of the parking lot. Stacy Wood noted several pregnant women have fallen in icy weather.  “I kind of had a hard time finding people who hadn’t taken a spill in the parking lot,” she said, noting it’s a real potential liability for the Company if someone is injured.

Associate Publisher George Hearst said the Company has to install a storm drainage system to handle runoff as part of building a new press.

The walking tour started with a view of the carpeting in advertising. After looking at a spot a former employee just left, you could see the clear difference between the space where a former plastic mat had been and the filthy carpet next to it.

Next stop was advertising art, where employees talked about the often frigid temperatures in the former computer room and the fact there is only one exit from the room during an emergency.

After making sure the room was clear, the parties then stepped into the area in the downstairs women’s rest room that is supposed to be available for nursing mothers. In our last contract, the Company agreed to provide a room for nursing mothers. A sink was installed that was meant to be used only by mothers, but no sign was ever installed instructing employees not to use that sink for other purposes. A chair for the mothers was not bought, either.

To his credit, George Hearst has asked for signs to be placed in the room and he has arranged to get a refrigerator in the room for the sole use of mothers. Anyone who places food in there will find it immediately discarded. A sign will make that clear.

The area for mothers is only sectioned off by a curtain, while ideally it would be best to have a separate room. The completion of the nursing mothers’ area took on new life after four women in editorial became pregnant. (Congratulations, Jennifer Gish, on your newborn twins!)

The Company said it would look at all the issues raised and respond to the Guild. If there are any health and safety concerns you would like addressed, please contact a bargaining committee member or contact the union by phone at 482-9218 or by e-mail at


  • Cathy Woodruff

    Oh — so that’s why the emphatic sign appeared over that sink. Sorry, nursing mothers.
    I’m a little sorry to hear that the use of that sink is restricted, however. Of the four sinks in that restroom, it’s one of two that work consistently and it’s the only one that is convenient for brushing teeth. When the others are working, the electric eyes don’t respond to a thin little toothbrush.
    In the great scheme of things, this is not a big deal, of course. It’s just a little strange. I wouldn’t have used the sink if I realized that my use interfered in some way with the needs of the mothers.

  • Nina McCane

    The entire building is filthy. There is not enough maintenance staff to clean, maintain, problem solve and fix the problems outside and within the Times Union building. At last count, I am pretty sure there are 4-6 total full time/part time employees to cover the entire premises; including but not limited to: general cleaning, garbage pick-up, floors, air/ventillation systems, grounds clean-up, problem solving and fixing (ie: faucets, toilets, lights, doors, elevators, wiring, etc.).

    Would the owners and management of the Times Union building want to invite prominent figure (such as Hillary Clinton, etc.) into the building? Would the management want anyone (employee or visitor) to walk into and really SEE the condition of the building? The bathrooms are disgusting and often broken. Dust bunnies the size of quarters come flying out of the air duct covers in hallways and rooms; one landed in my morning oatmeal at my desk. It was the size of a half dollar, was very dark gray/black and thick…yummy! Look at the hallways…dustballs roll everywhere. The stairs and stairwells throughout the building are filled with dirt, dustballs and some kind of “sooty” residue on the walls – especially the back stairwell outside Marketing on the 2nd floor to the landing outside Photo/Engraving on the 1st floor. In Advertising Art, the desks, counters and floors are covered in dirt, thick dust and grime. I clean my desk at least every other week due to the amount of dust. The air quality in Ad Art (and the building as a whole) is horrendous. After 4-5 days off in a row, I feel great…OUT of the building. Go back to work and by the 2nd day I feel tired, severely congested, my eyes hurt and sting, there is always a metal taste in my mouth and I sneeze constantly. What is in the air??? Suggestions: lead from old printing processes, ink dust, mold, I-87 pollutants, allergens, etc.

    Final topic: Has anyone in management noticed or addressed the fact that in the last 6 years, at least 36 employees have been diagnosed with some type of cancer? I have a full list of all those I know of personally along with the type of cancer. The list also notes whether the employee has recovered, is still in treatment (or recurrent treatment), recurrent cancers, and those who have passed away. I am not sure of the exact number of employees still left at the TU (especially after all the recent buy-outs and retirements), but I am pretty sure there are no more than 360 (as the highest count). So…what does that mean? At least 10 PERCENT of the TU population (at the very least) have been diagnosed, suffered through or passed away from some form of cancer. Has the air quality, including scrapings from inside the air ducts, the air vents, the print shop, the press room, the stairwells, etc. been tested for chemicals? My theory is all hypothetical, of course, but too scary to overlook.

    PS I have not seen any inside or outside company/employee clean the rest rooms in over a month. When I did see them, cleaning consisted of squirting blue stuff into the toilets and then flushing and wiping down the counters with a rag – after the surface had been sprayed with some caustic cleaning solution that burned my nose and throat and made me cough uncontrollable. I could show the management of the TU how to clean with all natural, 100 percent safe, phenomenal quality cleaning solutions that would not be harmful to either the cleaner or the TU employees. It would also save the TU money. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

    Thanks for listening. Look for other blogs from me…I am on a roll.

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