As some of you may have already heard, I will be leaving the Albany Times Union on Friday, May 31, at which time I will also be stepping down as president of the Albany Newspaper Guild.
I understand these are frustrating and challenging times, given the repeated downsizing at the newspaper as many people find themselves juggling multiple duties while the wage freeze enters its twelfth year.
As I depart, I want you to know that efforts to negotiate a new contract were continuing, quietly and behind the scenes, in hopes that such an atmosphere would be conducive to allowing both sides more complete freedom of expression without the pressure of heightened public expectations.
I regret that this approach, while yielding some areas of consensus, was unable to reach an agreement, given that some items discussed were simply deemed too valuable to put on the table at this time.
Given all this, your Guild contract still retains valuable protections and benefits, especially at a time when the entire newspaper industry is under incredible stress, with many papers changing ownership, shedding staff dramatically or slashing wages.
This contract still retains seniority benefits and protections against outsourcing of work, which if lost could expose the longest-tenured staffers to job loss to newer hires or to outside contract workers. The contract still retains defined benefits for vacation days, personal days, and make up days.
And it also provides substantial financial benefits should workers decide to accept buyouts, or lose their jobs involuntarily, protections that many other workers in other industries do not enjoy.
The defined-benefit pension plan, which is provided to all Guild members after five years of work, is become all too rare in the modern U.S. economy that is shifting the risk for retirement planning to the individual worker.
In the days ahead, your Guild board will be deciding how to tackle the contract challenges that have proven so difficult to resolve. They will need to know what you think. You will need to know what kind of choices might have to be made. If you hear about Guild events, try to attend. And remember, the benefits of the contract, imperfect as it currently is, will ultimately be as strong as the Guild itself.
As I leave, I wish your Guild officers a sense of renewed purpose and the member support they will need to determine how to best navigate the path ahead, which will present its own set of new challenges as this industry continues to adapt to changing times.
Albany Newspaper Guild