Comparing apples to orangutans (updated)

After reading Publisher George Hearst’s latest e-mail, a colleague stopped me in the hall.

“Did the other unions agree to get rid of their seniority?”


Umm, no.


“Did they agree to let the Company outsource their jobs?”


Umm, no.


“Then what the hell is George talking about?”

In his message, the publisher said the other four unions in the plant had all agreed to offer concessions due to the changed nature of the business and acted as if your Guild representatives were just refusing to be helpful.

Of the other contracts, I am most familiar with the Teamsters’ pact in the mailroom. And, yes, they made some significant concessions. They lowered starting pay and extended how long it would take to get to the top scale. They made some changes to scheduling that give more, to use George’s favoritie word, flexibility on bringing people in when there is work to be done. And they agreed to “insource” work that they would do, handling packaging from the Connecticut papers, for example.

That all sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?   Let me amend this comment a bit, because we didn’t mean to make it sound as if these were not difficult decisions and significant gives from our brothers and sisters in the other unions. They were, and we respect that. But comparing those concessions to what the Company is demanding from us is like comparing apples to orangutans. Allowing unlimited outsourcing and picking and choosing employees to lay off strikes at the fundamental reasons employees have a union.

Of course, the publisher is not proposing we accept the pay raises he gave the Teamsters. Or the bonus days for every sick day they don’t take. Or the generous buyout provisions. (At the time the agreement was reached last year, the Company envisioned building a new press and eventually reducing the ranks of the mailers.) The Company only tends to compare one contract to another when it wants a union to give up something, not when one’ s benefits are better than another.

And Mr. Hearst provides an inaccurate description of the Guild’s statement that the Company has declared “war” on us. We made that comment in reference to the Company’s unprecedented decision to cancel our contract, not as a comment on its bargaining proposals.

The publisher has also repeatedly asserted that he canceled the contract because negotiations were not moving as quickly as he wanted. They’d have moved quicker if he had shown up on time, not canceled as many sessions (because he was too busy with meetings over a new press that now appears doomed) and had not gone five weeks between sessions and then showed up empty-handed.

And here is one last undeniable fact: On the two major issues that Mr. Hearst calls central to these negotiations, the Guild has presented concessions on both. We’ve offered guidelines for outsourcing and to change the rules on layoffs from by department to by job title.

The Company? Its proposal on outsourcing is unchanged. Its proposal on seniority worsened, eliminating the rehire rules.

This week, we have three consecutive days of bargaining. We come to the table, as we have since day one, willing to compromise. We also come knowing we have the full support of the community and our membership should the Company continue to refuse to compromise on the most critical issues we face.


  • Cathy Woodruff

    I urge Mr. Hearst to consider what our Guild leadership is suggesting as bargaining continues and understand that we do want to contribute to preserving the quality and the future of the Times Union.

    I was disturbed to read the implication in his letter today that we are, somehow, less interested or less willing to help than employees represented by other unions. I know Tim is not sending out this vibe.

    Tim has earned my appreciation for his candor, his honesty and his sincerity — not to mention his integrity and determination to be, above all, reasonable in the positions he takes. I don’t believe for a minute that he is changing his ways at the bargaining table.

    I believe that the company will do serious damage to its reputation and identity as a local newspaper — and as one that is in tune with its community and its readers — if it continues to press forward with the idea of replacing local Guild members with outsourced workers and bashing the seniority provisions that were bargained in good faith. Obviously, there will need to be some compromises, but please don’t blame us for wanting to protect our livelihoods and our work serving our readers, our advertisers and our community.

    Good luck to all who will meet at the bargaining sessions this week. May your good-faith efforts be rewarded with progress.

  • Mikey

    Who is the Orangutan?

    After reading the “comparing apples to orangutans” entry on the Guild blog, I wondered who’s the orangutan? Is he, Tim O’brien, is referring to me and the Teamster Mailers’ contract or to me personally?

    My contract with the company was negotiated over 18 months and through some long hard sessions we came to an agreement. Tim is concerned with some of my benefits such as sick pay. I received that in my contract 14 years ago when the Guild sought other benefits that we didn’t receive. The generous buyout he refers to are for layoffs or early retirement in the event of automation and new hires are at 50% instead of 65%, quite comparable to your dismissal language and the buyouts that were offered.

    Tim, you should pay more attention to your own contract and insuring the future of your membership.

    Michael Cipollo
    Teamster Local #126

    • albanyguild

      Hi Mike: To answer your question, the “orangutan” is the Company’s proposal to outsource any and all jobs and to remove seniority protections in our contract. It is in no way a criticism of you, your members or your contract. I’ve always admired your bargaining skills.

      But the Company is trying to argue directly to my members that we should cave on those two issues because of the concessions you and the other unions in the plant agreed to. My response is: Yes, the others made concessions, but no other union has agreed to waive seniority rights and to allow wholesale outsourcing of their work. The comparison George made in his memo is invalid.

      I was questioning the validity of George’s argument, not criticizing you or your union.

      Tim O’Brien
      The Newspaper Guild/CWA of Albany

  • Concerned

    Mikey – Do you think it appropriate that another Union take umbridge and offense in a public forum – not a very good idea I would say. I don’t believe that anything that was written even remotely seemed derrogatory to you or your Union and to be devisive to our Bargaining Team and union in general is shameful.

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