Guild didn’t pick this fight but is ready to picket
Brightly colored signs covered every inch of a series of conference tables in an upstairs meeting room at the Albany Labor Temple tonight.
Times Union employees showed their artistic sides as they stood side by side, drawing inspiration for a possible picket this Thursday if the newspaper follows through on its threat to cancel our contract.
The signs all contain different messages: “A Local Newspaper Needs Local Employees,” “Where’s the Loyalty?”, “Keep Jobs Local,” “Honk to Save Local Jobs” etc. Thanks to all who took time out of their busy lives to show how creative they are.
The Company made the unprecedented decision to cancel our contract this Thursday, a fight we did not ask for and have been working to prevent. Unless the Times Union management changes their minds in the next 24 hours, a very public battle will be launched as this week ends.
One member of Albany’s Common Council sent Publisher George Hearst an e-mail Tuesday afternoon. President Pro Tempore Richard Conti noted a resolution in support of the Guild has strong support but the council set it aside until April 20 to give Hearst a chance to be heard.
“I would urge in a similar act of good faith that the Times-Union not cancel the Guild’s contract this Thursday,” he concluded.
We hope the Times Union heeds his advice. But if not, our signs are ready and so are we.
Freedom of speach gives us the right to picket and protest but I just don’t understand the actions being considered to boycott circulation and boycott advertisers. Keeping circulation at the higest possible level has to be the hardest job in this building. It is never enough and the job is never done. To stop subscriptions, which then lowers advertising revenue and lowers insert revenue does nothing but hurt everyone in this company. Even the carriers will feel the loss. They need home delivery or they will be out of work. Lets not forget that our circulation department works to have an increase in circulation for a specific six month reporting period. If that six month reporting period is down, we have to live with that number until the end of the next six month reporting period. Again, more loss of revenue. These action won’t just hurt now but will continue to hurt far into the future. So I ask this question, who are we really hurting with a boycott? The answer….. every Times Union employee. Will these actions change the direction management wants to go, or will it just make the decesion to downsize our staff a bit easier. With less revenue coming in they need less employees? Why declare “War” on a company that has provided us with an equal exchange of a days work for a days pay. Why declare “War” on a company that has paid the way for some of our sick or injured fellow workers or assisted fellow workers in times of family crisis or tragedy? Why declare “War” at all? The company is not an enemy. Can’t we put aside all the bravado and simply find a solution that hurts everyone the least. Read the national news and you will see the newspaper industry has had better days. I believe we are still strong but have to change with the times and will emerge better, stronger for our efforts. Here is an idea that will help. Instead of sending out cards to cancel subscriptions, why don’t we send out cards encouraging new subscribers. That just might save some jobs.
Gary, we did not declare war on the Company. If the Company cancels the contract, it will be declaring war on us. We do not want to boycott or picket anyone. As Audrey said, we have worked with the Company and labor unions in the past to attract subscribers. (You can read an earlier blog post here that includes a letter from Walt Wheeler talking about that very issue.) We are working hard this week to try to reach an agreement.
But if the Company cancels our contract, we’re not going to respond by saying: “Hey, they’re busting our union. Sign up here to subscribe.” We are being reasonable at the bargaining table, and we hope that in recognition of that the Company will not take the unprecedented step of canceling the contract. If it does, we will have no choice. I’ve not heard from you in the month since we decided to stop distributing fliers outside advertisers as long as the contract remains in effect. I hope you’ve spent that time telling your managers what a mistake canceling our contract would be.
I can understand the thought process that the circulation and advertising numbers will drive work away from the Times Union. The choice to boycott advertisers or circulation is not to declare war on management but to use the tools necessary to get them to back off on unreaseonable demands. Some may say the Guild tactics are unreasonable, but when they have made many, many concessions to no avail that would satisfy management I think that harsh action must be considered.
Will some departments suffer more than others, yes but the goal in these actions is for the good of all. As part of the Guild I would urge circulation and advertising employees to understand that the Guild does not take these actions lightly and if there were another way to get Hearst to bargain fairly they would certainly do so. I ask that you support the Guild in this fight, without the Guild you will have no protection and no rights to a days work for a days pay.
The idea of sending out cards to encourage new subscriptions is not new to the Guild leadership. They have gone to organizations encouraging other unions’ members to subscribe to the Times Union. It will do so again when the contract is settled fairly. I have utmost respect for the leadership of the Guild, more often then not they have chosen the higher ground in efforts to work with management to create solutions to workplace issues. The Guild is not the monster here, management is. Please stand behind the Guild, you are all valuable members and the fight can be resolved if you all stand strong TOGETHER.
United we stand
Well said, Audrey. The company could negotiate. Instead, it has chosen to dictate. It has chosen to cancel our contract at midnight if the union membership does not unconditionally surrender. That may sound melodramatic, but it’s true. If the company cancels the contract, the message sent is this: You will accept whatever we offer because we’re not negotiating. We’re shoving demands down your throat; now open up and say, “Ah.”
And if it shoves its demands down our collective throat this time, how will the company behave when our contract expires next time?
If the company chooses to negotiate, such measures to protect the union membership become necessary. If it doesn’t, we either fight back or say “Ah,” even if fighting back means we get bloodied some in the process.
It shouldn’t be like that, and it wouldn’t be like that if the company were treating us fairly.
No one wants to picket and employ advertising and circulation boycotts. No one wants to be treated inhumanely, either. It’s within the company’s power to stop both.
I have little to add to the articulate posts by Audrey, United We Stand and AlbanyGuild except to encourage others to read them.
Like all of my fellow Guild members, I suspect, I am sitting here with an upset stomach at the thought of any kind of boycott. If anyone from the company is reading, I plead with you not to cancel the contract.
We’ve made many proposals in an effort to lessen the need for layoffs and try to help the company’s financial position. I’d still take that 5 percent pay cut and I’d entertain suggestions of other concessions. It wouldn’t be fun, but it would be worth it if we could save some of our valued young journalists.
The guild’s proposed modifications to seniority also sound like a step in your direction. Please do not dismiss them out of hand. At least consider them a starting point for more discussion.
Please respect the effort we are making and the devotion we feel for this institution. Please don’t cancel the contract. Given the nature of our readership — many, many union members who value local jobs and worker protections — it can only damage the Times Union.
The Guild is not the company’s enemy, either. No war mongering here. I’m wearing a big peace sign around my neck. Olive branch, anyone?
Allan M. Lahoff
Gotta love Audrey and I DO, for those of you who I haven’t met from the Guild, I’m Audrey’s husband, Allan.I have seen over the years how your management “works” the membership. I will say no more than this:”When you fight among yourselves you are doing MANAGEMENTS work.” Taking the high ground is never easy but nevertheless very necessary otherwise you become “sheep.”I will be there today along with others representiung the PEF staff union (Steelworkers). I’ll try to do the work of 2 in Audrey’s absence (she is unable to attend but would if she could but you know that). BTW what your management is trying to do is outright mean and disrespectful, stand up and behind your union leaders or wear a target for the next cost saving whim they try to force upon you without the protection of your contract. Not one of you are safe if you faulter at a time like this.
PS Has members of TU managemnt ever been laid off? Something to think about, maybe?