• Guild membership elects board secretary, approves special buyout

    Guild membership unanimously elected Massarah Mikati as Executive Board secretary during the Albany Newspaper Guild’s annual membership meeting Thursday.

    Massarah, who covers new Americans and the suburbs of Colonie at the Times Union, will fill the vacant board seat of secretary left earlier this year when a Guild member was promoted to an exempt, editor position.

    Massarah has served as a Guild steward in recent months and led the Guild’s dialogue on diversity and inclusion. She is a member of the Guild’s Diversity Committee as well as the Company designated committee.

    Guild members also approved a special buyout package that has been offered to specific employees at the Times Union. The agreement reached with the Company regarding this buyout is NOT available to all employees and does NOT represent a company request for a reduction in the workforce.

    Some members have reached out to Guild leadership in recent days about applying for a buyout. While management has indicated to Guild leadership that a request for buyouts may be on the horizon, there is NO CURRENT BUYOUT PACKAGE AVAILABLE FOR ALL EMPLOYEES. Again, there is NO REQUEST FOR BLANKET BUYOUTS, at this time.

    We understand you may be eager to know what the future holds at the Times Union. We are, too. Unfortunately, that picture has not been provided to us at this time. As always, we will keep you apprised of any new information as it is made available.

  • Guild members to vote on Board secretary, special limited buyout proposal

    Make sure your voice is heard on the selection of a new secretary to the Albany Newspaper Guild executive board. 

    Members will vote to fill the vacant post of local secretary as well as weigh in on a limited special buyout package during the local’s annual membership meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17.

    The meeting will be held via ZOOM. Meeting information will be provided in a separate email. If you do not receive the information, contact the Guild office at office@albanyguild.org.


    Due to the promotion of a Guild member to an exempt management position, the Guild must fill the vacant post of local secretary. The member elected to this post will serve the remaining two years of the three-year term of office and participate in Executive Board meetings and other activities supporting the local’s mission to represent our unit members.


    Members will also be asked to vote on a tentative special buyout package with the Times Union, which is limited to six members in the unit. 

    The buyout, which is being offered as a voluntary option to selected employees at the Times Union, includes a minimum of 15 weeks of pay; four months of health insurance with the company paying the employee’s weekly deductible; 50 percent of the premium in a cash payment for employees who do not receive health insurance from the company; and payment of all accrued vacation, makeup and personal days. The buyout is part of a Hearst Newspaper Division offering across the newspaper chain, with the money for the buyout coming from corporate coffers.

    This will not trigger Section 3 of the Guild contract involving Job Security and the beginning of blanket buyouts. The Company must notify the Guild prior to any further reductions in the workforce. 

    The Contracts Committee of the NewsGuild-CWA, the entity given authority over Guild contracts and other negotiated agreements through the provisions found in the NewsGuild’s Constitution, reviewed the terms of the Albany Guild’s tentative agreement on the special buyout package Friday and has approved it for submission to the membership for a ratification vote. The local unit’s Executive Board, in an emergency meeting Friday afternoon, approved putting the special proposal to a full membership vote. 


    Publisher George Hearst informed Guild President Mandy Fries and Vice President Ken Crowe Friday afternoon that the company is planning a “restructuring” due to the economic downturn hitting newspaper revenues. 

    It is likely the Company will come to the Guild before the end of the year or in early January seeking to reduce staff, however, no details have been provided on what the “restructuring” could look like. 

    The buyout will be offered building-wide and will not solely impact the Guild unit members, Hearst said. The company has not yet determined a goal for its cuts. If the company doesn’t achieve its desired savings through buyouts, layoffs may follow. The corporate ban on furloughs and layoffs would have to be lifted in order for this to occur.

    The local has been in contact with the International staff regarding this development and is starting preparations for buyout talks that could occur as early as October.

    Advertising revenues dropped 60 percent during the deepest spending reductions brought by the coronavirus pandemic, mirroring what has occurred across the newspaper industry, the company said. While advertising has improved, it remains below what it was a year ago.

    Please contact an Executive Board member if you have any questions or suggestions regarding future buyout negotiations.

  • Year in Review: Guild unites to protect members; leads on remote work policy, COVID-19 safety

    Dear fellow Guild colleagues,

    As we gear up for our annual membership meeting in September, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with all of you some of the successes the Albany Newspaper Guild has seen in the last year.

    It has been, undoubtedly, a trying year for all of us at the Times Union, but the Guild has been working hard to protect you and your fellow colleagues every step of the way. Whether that is ensuring management follows our contract, accompanying employees during disciplinary discussions or negotiating additional workplace protections amid a pandemic, the Guild has remained dedicated to protecting you.

    The successes outlined below give you a glimpse into what the Guild has been doing for you over the past year, and hopefully encourages you to become part of the Guild family ahead of our annual membership meeting and vote to fill a board vacancy. Becoming a dues-paying member helps support all the work the Guild does for you and your fellow colleagues AND gives you the ability to vote on Guild matters, including the upcoming election.

    We broke down our successes below. Still not convinced? Learn more about how the Guild benefits you!

    In solidarity,

    Mandy Fries


    Guild works with management to solidify remote work policy

    The Guild’s latest effort comes in response to our contact with members across departments, with many expressing concerns over returning to the office and wanting to continue to work from home.

    Guild leadership has drafted a remote work policy that will be presented to Publisher George Hearst. George has expressed a willingness to discuss a permanent policy, recognizing that Times Union employees working remotely during the height of the pandemic was successful and employees may be more productive working from home.


    Guild secures buyout extension, reduces planned layoff count

    Just as Mandy Fries took the helm as Guild president, the company seeks to lay off eight Guild-represented employees, ignoring a 45-day window for notifying the labor union of planned layoffs. The Guild’s swift action holding the company accountable to our contract secures a buyout extension to July 5.

    The company gets two more people to take buyouts in July, reducing the planned number of layoffs to five.

    While we hate to see anyone laid off, extending the buyout offer deadline and ensuring the company adhered to our contract allowed employees the proper amount of time to seek a buyout rather than be forced out the door. Making sure we were part of the process and dialogue with management also reduced the number of Guild-represented employees the company ultimately laid off, as well.


    Guild unites membership, secures enhanced buyout for finance office

    At first glance, the company’s pursuit to outsource the finance/business office may seem like a huge blow to the Guild – and it was.

    But we not only were able to land a generous, enhanced buyout for our colleagues in the finance office, we had overwhelming membership support for it as well. Membership unanimously supported the enhanced buyout, with 70 percent of eligible members voting. That vote in October 2019 represented a 160 percent increase in turnout from the last vote.

    That participation was incredible, and it is that support and unity that is crucial for our success then as well as going forward. Through collective action we can make improvements to our workplace, but it will require all of us working together to truly make a difference and make things happen!


    Guild leads on COVID-19 safety discussions

    As a more recent example, the Guild has been in constant contact with management about workplace safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    We quickly sprang into action in early March to meet with top executives about how the Times Union would handle local COVID-19 cases and how employees would be protected. Guild leadership has held multiple discussions with management since then, including raising concerns on using accumulated sick time for COVID-19 recovery and challenges with working from home while homeschooling children.

    Following these discussions, the Company announced 26 weeks of paid leave for any employee who contracts COVID-19 or must take care of someone who has fallen ill. Management also offered two weeks of paid parental leave that the Guild ensured could be used flexibly.

    The Guild also made sure employees who worked at Times Union headquarters or outside the home received the $350 lump sum payments the Times Union provided some employees. The Company’s original payment plan required each department manager to identify who was eligible and neglected many employees who should have received the payment.

    We also protected individual members from improper behavior from management, including a manager’s visit to a Guild employee’s home on the employee’s day off.


    Guild protects employees from unreasonable dismissal

    When the Company proposed a “clean desk policy” in June it came with the caveat that if you left something on your desk you could be fired.

    The Guild quickly pushed back on the policy as written and struck a “common sense” agreement with top management: Keep your desk clean, and if you leave something on it, it’ll be thrown away.

    The final policy requires you to keep your desk clean daily, removing everything but computer and telephone equipment from desktop surfaces so cleaning crews can thoroughly clean. If you leave something on your desk, everything will be thrown away, rather than being written up or possibly fired.

    The clean desk policy is necessary to combat the potential spread of COVID-19.


    Guild leads on diversity, inclusion, overall workplace improvement discussions

    Before the pandemic, the civil unrest and the Hearst Corporation’s sudden dedication to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the Guild led discussions on how the Times Union could be more welcoming and inclusive.

    We called on management to provide in-person sexual harassment training and provided options for doing so. We have worked with managers and Guild-represented employees to address workplace harassment, hostility and favoritism. Most recently, we sent a letter to top executives providing recommendations for improving diversity and inclusion at the Times Union.

    These discussions and the Guild’s work continue, and we hope the recommendations the Guild has championed will be implemented by the Company.

    As always, if you’d like to get more involved in the discussions, have any recommendations or particular issues you’d like to discuss with a Guild representative, do not hesitate to reach out.

    Lastly, members of the Guild’s Diversity Committee have taken training to conduct a pay equity study at the Times Union, and are working with international Guild attorneys on drafting a letter to request detailed information from management.


    Other efforts the Guild has made on your behalf include:

    • Alerting management to issues of mold at certain circulation depots.
    • Working with district managers on workplace hazards and issues as well as scheduling problems.
    • Rebuilding the stewards system, which now means each Guild-represented employee has a direct line of contact to the Guild.
    • Improving communication with all of you, including regular updates and monthly newsletters.
    • Bringing the international Guild president Jon Schleuss to the Times Union and connecting him with 40 Guild members as well as a meeting with Publisher George Hearst. In the same vain, we also have a former Times Union employee and past Guild president Melissa Nelson working with our local unit.
    • Negotiating new Guild-represented positions on the Times Union web team.
    • Naming new members to the commission committee to get active representation for advertising.
    • Negotiating an agreement on circulation customer service representatives’ commissions.
    • Improving the working relationship with management and George Hearst.
    • Working with individual Guild members on workplace issues and questions on work performance.
  • Mark your calendars: Vote for Guild board secretary Sept. 17

    The Newspaper Guild of Albany, Local 31034, TNG-CWA will hold its annual membership meeting via ZOOM at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17.

    Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in order to protect the membership’s health, the Executive Board voted unanimously at its Aug. 12 meeting to conduct the annual membership meeting virtually. The information to log in to the Zoom meeting will be provided to the membership before the meeting.

    The position of local secretary is vacant and is up for election for the remaining time of the three-year term of office. The person elected secretary will take office immediately.

    The position requires attendance at the monthly Executive Board meeting, typically held at 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. Board members develop bargaining proposals, make decisions on health care and other proposals, and decide on any grievances or other issues that arise.

    The meeting will be an opportunity for members to raise any issues or concerns, and to hear updates on local actions for the past year.

    Election Information:

    The position is Secretary. The term will run through December 31, 2022.

    Members must be in good standing to run for office and to attend the nomination meeting. If you want to check your standing, email the Guild office at office@albanyguild.org.

    If there is only one nomination for any office, and the person accepts nomination, the person will be elected at the meeting. If there is more than one candidate for any office, a Local Elections Committee appointed by the Executive Board will conduct a mail-in ballot election.

    Nominations for the office may be from the floor, by petition. Petitions may be for an individual candidate in which the name of the candidate, his/her Local unit (if applicable), and department worked listed. Such petitions must also contain the names of at least 25 members. Individuals signing a petition must be members in good standing. These petitions must be filed with the local officer designated as acting secretary due to the permanent secretary post being vacant before the election at the membership meeting. The acting secretary shall notify all candidates of their
    nomination and shall receive from them a written notice of their willingness to serve.

  • Company announces employees to begin returning to office Aug. 17

    Keep Aug. 17th in mind. That’s when Group A consisting of 30 people will return to work inside the Times Union building, according to a presentation by Publisher George Hearst, Operations VP Dan Couto and Human Resources Director Ruth Fantasia Monday.

    The Guild has been met with the Company on a regular basis since March when nearly all of us began working at home. Most of the information you had advance notice of through our earlier postings.

    The key items to keep in mind are that George Hearst said the Company will put the needs of the employees first. If you have a pre-existing health condition, family issues or other events that make it difficult or dangerous to return to the office instead of working from home, you should speak to the Guild and the Company. We are concerned about your safety. That’s what our local with support from the International staff has been working on since March.

    Everyone should have received an email from Ruth Fantasia early Monday evening about downloading the Health APP. It takes effect Aug. 17. The Company recommends getting into the habit of completing it for each day you are assigned to work. If you should report a YES answer to any of the questions, make sure you contact a Guild officer or steward. We will provide updated contact information in the near future.

    Also, if you do not have a smart phone you can complete a paper form. If you fall into this situation, please let the Guild know so we can make reporting in as easy as possible.

    The Company has told the Guild that we will be notified when anyone in the local is scheduled to return. George Hearst said there would be a two-week notification before you are scheduled to go back in. He also indicated that the earliest Group B would go back in is in the weeks after Labor Day.

    Here are the four return groups as presented by the Company:

    Group A – Executives, managers and employees required to be on site to perform critical business/operations functions. Approximately 30 employees.

    Group B – Employees voluntarily returning to work or as required by business/operations functions. Approximately 50 employees.

    Group C – Employees less reluctant to return. Approximately 58 employees.

    Group D – All other employees. Approximately 48 employees.

    If you have any questions please contact the Guild office at office@AlbanyGuild.org or call Vice President Ken Crowe at 518-505-0610.