Times Union layoffs blatantly violate law
Demonstrating utter contempt for the law, the Times Union walked nine Guild-covered employees out the door over the past two days. Four more are expected later this week for a total of 13 Guild members laid off.
The Company’s actions come while the parties are supposed to be negotiating layoff criteria, talks that resume at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Last week, the Guild filed two information requests over the proposed criteria, which the newspaper has yet to answer.
Despite the fact the criteria has not been settled, and despite the fact that the editorial criteria was filled with errors and standards never negotiated with the union, the Company used it to implement layoffs. Under the Company’s own language, it was supposed to negotiate with the Guild for 45 days over the implementation of any layoffs.
The Company is trying to claim the Guild-covered workers are being placed on a 45-day paid leave, at the end of which they would ‘likely’ be laid off unless changes in the criteria are negotiated, in which case they might still have a job.
In discussing the job cuts with several dozen staffers at 5 p.m. Tuesday, however, Editor Rex Smith read off each name, discussed the important contribution they had made to the newspaper and talked repeatedly about “the people who were laid off today” and “the people we lost today,” making crystal clear that this was no “paid leave.” Witnesses said they are willing to testify that Smith left no doubt these workers were laid off.
“We are utterly shocked at the Times Union’s behavior,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “The disregard for the law is stunning. An organization that is devoted to truth-telling lies about placing people on leave, but Rex Smith made quite clear to the entire newsroom these folks were laid off. It’s too late to put that cat back in the bag.”
The Guild questions what these employees are supposed to do. If, as the Company claims, they are not laid off, are they not supposed to look for new jobs? What are they supposed to tell prospective employers: “I am on paid leave but might get my job back?” Can they apply for unemployment when they are not yet officially laid off?
“This is a terrible, grossly unfair way to treat employees, many of whom worked for the newspaper for 10 years or more,” O’Brien said. “We will be amending our charges with the National Labor Relations Board over this latest violation of the law. Clearly this Company has no interest in engaging in any actual bargaining.”
Tim O’Brien here. I want to give Rex Smith great credit. He spoke the truth today, and I respect that. I expect they will try to make him backpedal, and he may be forced to do so, but he did what journalists are supposed to do. He told the truth. These people were laid off. Period.
Rex’s speech was refreshing after all the halftruths and untruths from the second floor. At least he made it crystal clear that there was no 45 days involved, and that these people were laid off as of right now.
I doubt any of the lawyers or whoever is in the contract talks for the company would have told the honest truth about their situation.
I’ll hold off on my praise for Mr. Smith for now, thanks.
Just a shout out to Marlene Kennedy who I got to know when we both worked for American City Business Journals in the 1990s.
Chairman and Editor
Pacific Coast Business Times
Santa Barbara, CA
I just wanted to take a moment to say farewell to the people I was unable to say good-bye to on Tuesday. The best thing about working at the Times Union for the past couple of years has been all of you. I wanted to specifically thank Mr. Runfola and Mr. Jarboe for all their time, guidance and consideration, particularly during my time on the copy desk. Best of luck to everyone. Jim, John, Kyra, Glenn, Mary — take care.
I was very sorry to see Marlene go. She was good to work with and good at her job. Her whole team works so hard. What a loss.
Bob, I’m also sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to you, either. You will definitely be missed.