The Guild held a Joint Standing Committee July 2 with Times Union management that covered a number of topics impacting every department.
President Mandy Fries led the discussion held with Publisher George Hearst and other managers. Mandy was joined by Vice President Ken Crowe, Treasurer Jayson McKenna and Chief Steward Rob Gavin. Both sides continued to build on a history of reaching reasonable understanding.
Return to work and clean desk policy
The Times Union has tentative plans to bring about 30 people back to work in the main plant on Albany Shaker Road on Monday July 27. This is a tentative date. Managers of various departments will be the first to return. Some employees from advertising, circulation and editorial could also be in that group.
We’ll be notified of who is scheduled to go back. There would be a phased return to bring more people about two to three weeks later.
The Times Union is considering using an App for each of us to report in on health questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic before coming into the office each day.
Guild representatives will do a walk-through before July 27 that will be arranged with Dan Couto, who heads operations and is in charge of keeping the workplace safe from coronavirus. There will be an immediate report posted on the walk-through when it is completed.
Publisher George Hearst said as part of the cleaning upgrades, the company will be installing improved air filters to scrub the air. This is similar to what Gov. Andrew Cuomo says has to be done at malls.
The Guild and the Company have agreed on a “Common Sense” approach to a clean desk policy. The original proposal was to discipline employees up to and including being fired if you don’t clean your desk off before heading home. Now, if you don’t clean your desk off, everything will be thrown away to give the cleaners the cleared space for a thorough cleaning.
The CLEAN DESK is necessary to combat potential spread of the coronavirus.
Remember, if you don’t clean your desk you lose everything that isn’t computer or telephone equipment. If you leave behind notes for a story, they’re gone. A fantastic sales plan, it’s gone.
The CLEAN DESK Policy is a reasonable agreement where the employee is placed first. There is no discipline for failing to clear your desk each day. But, if you fail to clear the desk, you will lose what’s on it.
Circulation department and depots
Chief Steward Rob Gavin and President Mandy Fries worked on circulation issues over the last several weeks. Particularly difficult work was done in dealing with issues related to a manager’s interaction with Guild-represented employees.
The Times Union has directed the companies responsible for the Kingston and North Greenbush depots to clean any mold. District managers brought mold issues to the Guild’s attention. Also in Kingston, toiletries and supplies for the bathrooms and depot have been delivered.
There’s been issues with a manager in the Circulation Department who is in charge of the circulation customer service reps who have the demanding work of keeping Times Union members – the subscribers in the pre-digital era – happy and on board.
Circulation VP Todd Peterson and Human Resources Director Ruth Fantasia are working with this manager to improve communication and other skills that will lead to an improved working environment in which ALL reps are treated with respect.
Remember, if there are issues in your department, contact your co-workers in the Guild leadership or activists so we can resolve the situation.
Work at home expenses
The Guild and the Times Union continued discussions about company contributions to pay for bona fide business-related expenses that have popped up since we started working from home.
The Company reaffirmed its long-standing practice of reimbursing employees for bona fide business-related expenses, and cited contract Section 22 (expenses).
Guild members also met virtually Wednesday to discuss opportunities for making the Times Union more diverse and inclusive, both internally and externally with our coverage.
The group of about 10 Guild members came up with several ideas that we will be fine-tuning in the coming weeks to later present to management.
If you were unable to attend and want to provide input, please reach out to the Guild at email@example.com. We will be sharing the finalized recommendations in the future.
The Guild now has a set of organizational charts provided by the Company showing the management setup and the managers each of us reports to while at work.
If you have any questions or issues, please contact the Guild office at office@AlbanyGuild.org. We will be in touch.
A Message from the President:
Just because we may be apart, doesn’t mean the Guild isn’t working for you.
During these unprecedented times, your Executive Board has been in constant dialogue with Times Union management to ensure workers are protected as we navigate life amid the coronavirus.
While many other news outlets across the country have announced furloughs and layoffs, Times Union management and the Hearst Corporation have indicated employees’ jobs are safe and have expanded protections to workers as the Guild comes forward with various concerns. I’m happy to say these dialogues are cordial and productive, and I’m truly thankful for the support the Company has given employees. You can learn more about them deeper in this newsletter.
The Company also agreed with the Guild to increase the stipend provided to advertising representatives, which members should have seen reflected in their most recent paycheck. Management now is weighing expanding that stipend to all Guild members working from home during this time at the recommendation of the Guild.
Times Union Publisher George Hearst also informed the Guild the Times Union will be launching a branding campaign that will include TV commercials emphasizing the important role we play in keeping the community informed, particularly during the pandemic. It just so happens the Guild also plans to run an ad in the Times Union recognizing the incredible work our members do.
With everything that is going on in the world, it’s refreshing to be working with management to protect and support employees during this time. As always, I encourage you to reach out if you are having an issue, so we can work together toward a resolution. Those who spend even a little bit of time with me know I love the saying, “teamwork makes the dream work,” but those words couldn’t be truer right now.
We are all in this together.
Yours in solidarity,
The Guild fights to save the newspaper industry
The NewsGuild Executive Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for federal, state, provincial, and local governments to provide public funds to sustain news operations.
Our executive board endorsed the program proposed by our International after participating in a lengthy teleconference involving 70 local Guild leaders, international officers and staff on March 28.
Earlier this year TNG-CWA President Jon Schleuss visited us. Many of us had the opportunity to chat with Jon.
Our union was born out of the Great Depression. Journalists banded together to secure fair wages and rights at newspapers across the country during a time of national crisis.
It was a bold act that many thought wasn’t possible. Many publishers opposed the move, claiming that allowing journalists to form unions would restrict their First Amendment rights.
In this crisis, it is time again to take bold action. Jon said in announcing the program that the goal is twofold:
- Save and protect the jobs in the news industry now without supporting hedge funds and private equity groups who pillaged our workforce.
- Seed a future that promotes a sustainable news industry supported by the public.
This would come from a very likely additional stimulus package in the coming weeks. As Guild leaders, we know this is a strange place for our union. But our critical reporting in the face of declining ad revenue, furloughs, and layoffs shows how essential we are to public safety.
We are one of the Guild’s original locals. We just celebrated our 86th birthday on March 20. Newspaper workers always go above and beyond during a crisis. It’s time to do it again.
Local assists two members
The local went to bat for two members on issues.
In one case, we helped a member with issues over childcare and work.
In the second case, we dealt with a supervisor going to a member’s residence on his day off when he is taking care of his children. The supervisor was uninvited.
Guild agrees to paid parental leave, extension of childcare benefits
A day after the Guild notified management of childcare concerns for our members, Hearst CEO Steve Swartz sent out a letter company wide announcing two weeks of paid parental leave for those who are struggling with childcare.
The Guild agreed with this measure and requested that Times Union employees be able to divide the two-week paid time into hours to allow for flexibility in managing work duties along with homeschooling children and other personal responsibilities. Management said they will accommodate employees taking parental leave on an hourly basis.
The Company is extending access to Bright Horizons and emergency care provisions for an additional 30 days as well. The benefit provides reimbursement for childcare services for essential workers locally, or allows you to select someone who does not live with you to serve as the caregiver of your child(ren). For more information, contact the Times Union’s Human Resources Department, or visit Bright Horizons website to see if you qualify.
Hearst has also stressed that managers are to be flexible and work with employees to accommodate needs under these unprecedented circumstances. The Guild looks forward to these efforts continuing and board members stand ready to assist you in working with management.
The Guild takes out ad in Times Union
On Sunday April 12, a full-page ad will appear in the Times Union and online celebrating our local members’ work during the coronavirus pandemic.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a list of essential businesses, only one had its own category alone – 6. News Media.
The Albany Newspaper Guild executive board voted unanimously to take out the ad. We want the rest of the Capital Region to know we’re working for them.
Our local is ensuring the news is delivered in print and online. Ad salespeople are helping businesses tell their story and remind their customers they’re ready to serve. District managers and circulation sales reps are connecting with our customers to ensure newspapers are delivered to their front door or on their computers, laptops and tablets. Reporters and photographers are collecting the stories and pictures to tell our readers. Copy editors are laying out and editing stories and photos. The digital team is working on the online presentation.
We want the Capital Region to know how essential we are to them. We want them to know that the Times Union’s Advertising, Business, Circulation, Digital, Editorial and Maintenance departments are working through this pandemic.
We’re scattered in our homes, some still at the main building and others in the depots.
The Executive Board felt taking out the ad would be a direct way to the readers to let them know who’s working for them.
Tips and tricks during the coronavirus pandemic
We remind everyone to be careful when they go out to shop. You may want to consider having items delivered.
It’s hard to find some items like paper goods, eggs and bread. Sometimes you can find them by going to smaller community stores, Stewart’s or hardware stores rather than grocery stores.
Union Plus which provides discounts, business services and information to union members has provided highlights of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) so you don’t have to read the 883 pages in the legislation. Go to http://www.unionplus.org.
Also take the opportunity to see services available to you as a union member.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has updated advice during this time:
- Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
- Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
- Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
- Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
You can find additional recommendations on the CDC’s website.
The Guild has met four times with the Company to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and its impact at the Times Union.
Friday, March 20, the Guild and the Company reached agreement on 26 weeks of sick leave for unit members who contract coronavirus and are out.
The Guild also agreed to the extension of the telemedicine program benefit, the United Concierge Medicine service, to all employees. This will occur through the end of June and then will be re-evaluated for extension of the coverage. This is a non-precedential agreement due to the emergency circumstances.
President Amanda Fries and Vice President Ken Crowe met with Publisher George Hearst, Associate Publisher Pat Richardson and Human Resources Director Ruth Fantasia.
Coronavirus tests costs are being waived by the Company’s insurance provider, Ruth confirmed Friday. Other aspects of health coverage during this crisis are being examined and could change depending on state and federal measures taken.
George told us that the Times Union’s coverage of the coronavirus is supported in the community. Digital subscriptions have increased strongly. Advertising is retooling to deal with the changing marketplace.
The Guild leadership decided in February to contact George and Ruth to meet about the developing coronavirus crisis. The first two meetings were face-to-face in George’s office. The third and fourth meetings were held via teleconference reflecting how the situation has changed.
The Guild raised concerns about sick leave, taking care of sick family members, working remotely, protection for members working out in the field and extended sick time for anyone who became infected with the coronavirus. The discussions have been open, frank and collegiate.
The Guild is happy to report that each of the concerns have been addressed. Nearly everyone is now working remotely. There are only about six people working in the Times Union building on Albany Shaker Road and the district mangers continue to work from the depots.
Hearst made it clear that the Company supports unit members having to care for children home from school and sick family members during the work day.
The Guild and the Company cleared up problems with a supervisor not adhering to work schedule language and worked out issues for photographers avoiding potentially dangerous exposure to coronavirus on assignments and two people in advertising with compromised immune systems. The Company said that the coronavirus emergency would be taken into account for members on performance improvement plans.
Guild employees who may be experiencing issues amid the health crisis can contact the Guild’s point person on coronavirus matters. Ken may be reached at 518-505-0610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guild leadership also is in regular contact with the international office, which is providing guidance during the coronavirus pandemic and offering assistance when possible.
Guild President Amanda Fries, Vice President Ken Crowe and Chief Steward Rob Gavin have met twice with Publisher George Hearst and Human Resources Director Ruth Fantasia to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the Times Union.
There was a review of sick leave provisions and practices. Guild unit members can draw on accumulated sick time if they are out for an extended period of time due to the coronavirus. Provisions for using sick time to take care of family members remains in effect.
Ruth Fantasia is in contact with the insurance providers to obtain information on coverage related to coronavirus.
Discussion was also held regarding working remotely and steps taken to protect the health of those still working on site.
The Guild has assisted five unit members with coronavirus related questions regarding workplace situations.
If you have questions, please contact a Guild officer. Ken Crowe is serving as a point person on coronavirus issues for the Guild. Ken may be reached at 518-505-0610 or email@example.com.
The Guild is scheduled to meet again with the Company on Friday. Please let us know if you have any questions you wish us to raise.