Rather than negotiate a fair contract with its employees, the Times Union is trying to position itself to claim the parties are at an impasse so it can impose the elimination of seniority rules for layoffs and start outsourcing jobs.
In George Hearst’s latest e-mail to employees, note he said the Company is dedicated to reaching “an expedient resolution.” Not a good resolution or a fair resolution, but an expedient one.
In the letter to Guild President Tim O’Brien, you’ll notice a much more negative tone and a claim the parties appear to be at impasse.
The parties are not at or near an impasse. There are plenty of issues left on the table for us to discuss, from an increase in the pension fund contribution to commissions to upgrades. Hearst himself lists a half dozen issues.
In addition, numerous questions have arisen over the Company’s proposals on the two issues it has described as core ones for these negotiations. Their proposals have been altered as of the last round of sessions, and we need to carefully review the latest version of their proposals and how they would affect our members.
“We have never said we will not reach an agreement on any of the issues on the table,” O’Brien said. “But we have an obligation to represent our members to the fullest and to make sure we understand what every word in a proposal means. Once you reach an agreement, you are bound by those words and cannot later claim, ‘Well, we really didn’t know what that meant.’ When the language is about outsourcing and seniority for layoffs, it is very important that every word in an agreement be carefully considered.”
If the Company attempts to claim we are at impasse, we will immediately file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board because it is demonstrably untrue. If the Company then says it will lay off people outside of seniority, we will immediately file a second board charge and seek an injunction.
Yes, we have been bargaining for nine months. The prior contract took two years to negotiate. Other unions in the plant have recently taken 15 months to negotiate. The amount of time spent bargaining is not an indication of impasse. And in fact, the Company did not really start bargaining in earnest until it issued the notice it would cancel the contract, a little more than a month ago.
And note what else George says in his memo: He wants to meet daily, but he has no intention of moving. In a sentence, that sums up the Company’s whole cynical game: Blast the union for not meeting daily, but refuse to bargain if we do.
You’ll hear George complain a lot about not meeting as often as he would like. What George doesn’t acknowledge is he was told that if he canceled the contract, it would temporarly cut our revenues and we would have to cut back on time spent on union leave. Knowing this, he canceled the contract anyway.
And, frankly, those of us on the Bargaining Committee want to spend some of our time doing our day jobs. The Company already targeted one of our committee members and tried to argue she had to hit the same advertising sales goals even if she was spending “every day” in bargaining as George wants. So that’s the Company’s position: Let’s meet every day, and let’s then say you’re a slouch at work.
Sure, the Company can meet every day. It has two out-of-town corporate lawyers on the payroll it can summon at short notice. The Guild’s expert advice comes from International representatives who work for many locals at a time, and we can’t simply order them to come to Albany the next day. At this stage, we will not bargain without an expert with us for every session, just as George would not bargain without his lawyer present.
“We know the Company wants to implement layoffs soon. It can do so under the current language,” O’Brien said. “Just because the Company wishes it had different language now does not mean it can force an impasse to get what it wants. The Times Union needs to continue to bargain in good faith until all the issues at the table are resolved and final language is agreed upon. While we certainly would like an agreement sooner than later, our first task is to get a fair agreement for our members that is carefully and wisely considered, not just expedient.”