Friday, February 27, 2009

2/26 bargaining update

The latest bargaining update has been sent via email to our members, and this was a busy session. Several proposals were made by the Guild. We'll focus on the main areas in this recap:

Wages are obviously a huge concern for everyone. The Guild is currently asking for no immediate raise, just a stabilization of wages, with a 3% pay increase after a year. The company countered with an offer of 0% at ratification and 2% after a year, plus elimination of merit raises.

All employees who are at scale would receive the increase as long as there was not a wage freeze in place for non-bargaining unit employees. An increase for employees earning above the wage scales would be subject to approval by management.

Job security is another key issue for our members, and the bargaining team " strongly rejected a MediaNews proposal that would add language to the upcoming contract that specifically allows managers to do bargaining-unit work," according to the email.

While we have seen an increase in managers performing the writing and editing duties that should be done by union employees, we don’t condone the practice.

Vacation proposals continued after last sessions discussion. In response to the company's proposal to cut the accrual cap to one year, the Guild asked for two weeks above that limit.

The rest of the session focused on changes to the night differential, severance pay and medical benefits for laid-off workers, cell-phone reimbursement, and layoff notification for future layoffs.

The next session is on Monday, March 2 Tuesday, March 3. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Guild rep Vicki Di Paolo at 562.259.9430

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Questions loom as Rocky falls

E.W. Scripps said it will shutter the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rocky Mountain News on Friday, ending 150 years of continuous operation and adding more than 200 union newsroom staffers to the unemployment rolls.

The move comes one day after union workers represented by the Denver Newspaper Guild reached a tentative agreement on wage and benefit concessions with a joint operating agency that publishes the Rocky and the MediaNews-owned Denver Post.

It remains unclear how the Scripps move will affect the Guild’s tentative agreement and the future existence of the DNA.

Citing declining revenues and the national economy, Scripps said it was forced to close the Rocky three months after putting the paper up for sale on Dec. 4, 2008, because a buyer had not been found.

Scripps, which bought the paper in 1926, said that although the paper will cease publishing Friday, employees will stay on the payroll through April 28.

Scripps officials told employees in the Rocky newsroom that the firm’s lawyers were discussing the move and its implications with union officials.

The DNA had sought concessions from six unions totaling $18 million to help the agency renegotiate $130 million in debt. Additionally, MediaNews sought $2 million in concessions at the Post. Two additional unions have yet to reach an agreement on the concessions.

The loss of the Rocky will leave the Post as the only major daily in Denver.

In the past decade the Rocky has been awarded 10 Pulitzer Prizes and many of the paper's departments, including the sports, business, and photo desks, have consistently been named some of the best in the nation.

The Rocky, first published 1859, is Colorado's oldest newspaper as is considered the state's longest continuously operated business.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LANG policy warning

We'd like to remind LANG employees that our employer, like many firms, has a company-wide policy in place restricting the use of company equipment to company business-related purposes only.

This includes, but is not limited to: phone systems, work e-mail, Unisys chat messaging systems, and internet browser software. In at least one recent incident, our employer has disciplined a Guild member for private comments made on the Unisys chat system. Previous incidents have also indicated that the company monitors website visits and traffic by employees.

Any use of LANG electronic equipment creates an electronic record that can be accessed at any time, and these records can be used to discipline employees for any perceived violation of the firm's equipment-use policy.

While our leadership is moving the discipline of its member to the grievance process, it is important for all employees to note this apparent shift toward enforcement of the equipment-use policy and take appropriate protective measures.

We also recommend that any personal communications, no matter how benign, be handled through personal equipment, such as personal laptop, cell phones or PDAs. It is also highly recommended that personal messages of any kind NOT be transmitted through your company-provided email account, as the employer may find any such personal use a violation of the company-wide policy.

If you have any questions regarding this situation, please feel free to contact Vicki Di Paolo at 562.259.9430.

Labor gains friend in D.C.

In a serious rebuke to the former Bush Administration's labor policies, California Rep. Hilda Solis was overwhelmingly confirmed today as U.S. Labor Secretary. Arguably a major turnaround for journalists and other working Americans, the decision came after Republican senators backed away from a threatened filibuster of Solis' nomination. Solis was confirmed today by a vote of 80-17.

This is perhaps one of the biggest developments and cause for hope among every American employee struggling for justice and equality. Solis has been a champion for workers' rights for the length of her political career.

The fight over her nomination stemmed from her vocal support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which has polarized national opinion on workers' rights to unionize.

Solis is a long-time supporter of the CWA and The Newspaper Guild and we look forward to working with her to improve the rights and working conditions of our current and future members.

"A Closer Look at the Employee Free Choice Act"

Hernandez exits, takes popular blog private

LANG's unfortunate decision last week to continue slashing its workforce added well-known Daily News columnist and reporter Greg Hernandez to the list of laid off talent. However, we are pleased that Greg's popular entertainment industry blog Out in Hollywood will continue under his personal control.
I first want you to know this: The Daily News has graciously consented to my taking the blog and its archives with me so Out in Hollywood will continue as a private enterprise with fresh content later this week (details to come).
Following negotiations between the Guild and the company, we're pleased that Greg, a long-term Guild member, can now continue doing the work he loves. We're certain that he will make it even more successful in the coming years. Greg is one of many LANG employees in recent years to create, develop, and nurture a highly successful blog under the LANG banner.

Greg is a true talent and we wish him ongoing success with Out in Hollywood.

DN: Less is more

The Daily News has announced finalized plans for its impending redesign of the paper.

Calling it more "reader friendly," the redesigned Daily News will no longer have dedicated Business and Opinion pages in the Monday edition. There are also several minor structuring changes - comics and puzzles have been moved to the front section on both Mondays and Tuesdays, for example.

Readers are decidedly nonplussed by the announcement. One commenter, posting to the DN's Topix board, calls the decision part of the "intentional suicide of an industry". Another poster expressed concern about the ever-shrinking size of the paper : "No opinion on Monday, what no one cares on Mondays? "

In tough financial times, tough financial decisions are understandable. However, reducing the amount of quality journalism to the community benefits no one and does nothing to improve the long-term viabilty of the newspaper.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2/23 bargaining update

The latest bargaining update has been sent to members via email, and despite news of layoffs - according to Guild calculations, the latest cuts cut the newsroom staff by nearly one-fifth - negotiations remain productive and amicable.

Among the topics discussed at this session was the list of management positions on the Guild-exempt list. Several obsolete positions were removed by mutual agreement, and replaced by current management slots.

Another new change is the addition of dues check-off, which will enable members to have Guild dues paid automatically.

The remainder of the session focused on vacation accrual. The company is seeking to significantly reduce the accrual cap to the amount of vacation earned in one year. The Guild is looking at options to the company's proposal.

The next session is Thursday, Feb. 26. The bargaining team will focus on the vacation proposal along with job security, holiday policies, overtime issues and compensation.

If you have any questions or concerns about bargaining or any other Guild issue, please contact one of your stewards or email us.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Busy week for LANG union

The good...

Sorry for the lag in updates, this week has been crazy!

Lots of news to report. We'd like to welcome Keith Higginbotham to the team. Keith is a former Press-Telegram writer and all around smart guy. He'll be working to help facilitate communications between the units, and coordinate our various projects, community outreach, and other activities.

Keith and the rest of the team spent this week with representatives from the Bay Area News Group (BANG), who came down to learn a little about our operations, and share their insights on organizing within the MediaNews empire. As always strength in numbers is the name of the game, and we're building a closer relationship with our northern counterparts so everyone working in MNG will have the best, most comprehensive information and tools available to them.
Karl Fischer, Jeremiah Oshan, and Pia Basudev spent time with Lesley Phillips, Keith, and me as we visited LANG properties, spoke with members, and leanred more about the issues facing Southern California journalists.

The bad...

As you've probably heard, the buyouts have been accepted and implemented. We'd like to extend our best wishes to Carol Bidwell, Alan McCabe, Melinda Kough, Sharon Kaplan, and copy desk chief Ed Richeson. We understand that the decision to move on was not made lightly, and we hope they find success wherever life takes them.

...and the even worse

In addition to the buyouts, the DN is also implementing layoffs. Television critic David Kronke, photographer Andy Holzman, and web producer Julio Morales were let go this week, and we have information that more layoffs are scheduled soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Questions about consolidation

MediaNews' copy desk consolidation plan is in effect, and more papers are potentially scheduled to move operations to San Gabriel very soon. As plans for a universal desk move forward, our goal is to ensure that our members are heard, and that this transition is as effective and trouble-free as possible. To meet that goal, we need your input.

We are reaching out to anyone on the copy desk, union or otherwise, about LANG's plans for a universal copy desk.

In order to learn how the plans will affect you, we've drafted this survey. Please click on the link and fill it out when you have the time.

The goal we hope to achieve from the survey results is it to develop a better
understanding of copy editors’ concerns so we can help our Guild
members there reach out to and better frame discussions with the non-
union folks.

If your operations haven't been consolidated yet, what is your biggest concern?

If you're already working at the universal desk, what needs to be improved?

We know you have ideas that can make this work better, and create a more stable and effective work environment. With your help, we'll bring these ideas to the company and push for coordination to examine areas that can be improved or modified.

For instance, one of our Daily News CEs said that leaving a slot editor and designer at each paper to would help maintain local identity and ensure accuracy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Transfer news update, more layoffs ahead

In an email sent out today, the Guild reports on negotiations over the potential transfer of the DN copy desk, and describe company plans for further layoffs.

The initial number of employees to be laid off is listed as eight, with a more detailed list of positions to follow. It's said these layoffs are separate from the copy desk transfer, and presumably any losses that may occur as a result of the transfer.

The email also clarifies the status of the copy desk transfer. According to MediaNews SVP of HR Jim Janiga, the final decision to transfer the DN copy desk has not yet been made, and may occur "in March, April, or not at all."

Also new is information that the deadline to receive severance is no longer in effect, and employees may "try out" the SGVT transfer and remain eligible for severance if they decide not to continue their new assignments, according to the email.

This last decision is likely the result of concerns that "not enough employees will apply to transfer," according to the email.

The email also has a list of the effects of the transfer offer.

What would change if members accept transfer?

- vacation accrual cap

- 401(k) match

- no Guild representation

What would remain the same?

- severance benefits, and eligibility to receive EDD benefits

- sick days

- seniority

- wage rate

The company and union are working together to prepare a Q&A to clarify what is known regarding the copy desk move.

Layoffs and transfers discussions consumed all our available time, so negotiations were pushed back to the next session. If you have questions please email us at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Buyouts, layoffs, and transfers

Our members report that Carolina Garcia, executive editor of the LADN, held meetings with staff last Friday. At the meetings, Garcia told employees that job transfers related to the upcoming copy desk consolidation will occur in March. She told the newsroom that the company would also be seeking layoffs, but any employee that volunteered for a preemptive buyout this week would receive a severance package. This plan and the proposed buyout have not been discussed with the Guild. The potential number of layoffs would be dependent on how many employees accepted the buyout offer, but initial reports suggest the target is five or six.

The details and terms of the buyout package are unclear at this time, but several employees have stepped forward in response to the offer.

There's a lot of confusion floating around over the announcement, with seemingly contradictory statements coming from management. The broad, nonspecific declarations have led to several different interpretations among the employees, and few hard details have been made available.

As of yet, the company has not negotiated the effects of the decision to move employees to the SGVT, and we're actively seeking out details and further information. If you have any information to share, please contact us at, or call Vicki Di Paolo at 562.259.9430

Monday, February 2, 2009

Guild, company reach agreement on furloughs

Guild members won protection in the event of layoffs during upcoming work furloughs and a pledge from management that all union-protected copy editors and page designers will be offered transfer to MediaNews offices in the San Gabriel Valley.

At a meeting Monday, the Guild agreed to accept five days of unpaid leave per bargaining-unit employee by March 31, 2009. Guild representatives proposed — and the company agreed — that in the event any unit member is laid off during that period, the company will pay the employee for time lost during the furlough.

"Nobody likes not to get paid for a week, but the language providing for restoration of that money, should a Guild member be laid off, at the very least, should discourage the company from making ill-advised layoffs during that period of time," said Web developer Steven Rosenberg. "Bottom line: our goal is to do everything we can to preserve the jobs of our members."

Per agreement with the company, Guild members may volunteer to take on additional furlough days to lesson the impact on fellow members already struggling to make ends meet and for whom the reduction in pay would prove to be an extreme hardship. Some members do not make enough money to live on their own and furlough days will no doubt create further distress. Additional furlough days on behalf of co-workers are subject to approval.

Upon finalization of the agreement, which will likely be as early as Tuesday, bargaining unit members can begin to select their preferred days off on the upcoming weekly schedules. To ensure there is no workplace intimidation, Guild stewards may be present during employee negotiation of furlough days

Vacation time and 401(k) contributions will continue to accrue for Guild members during furlough days.

The Guild made another significant gain Monday afternoon in ensuring that any member whose work will be moved to the San Gabriel Valley, including but not limited to copy editors and page designers, will be offered a transfer to the new site.

"Anybody who is impacted, who is working here, whose work may go to San Gabriel, will be offered the opportunity to transfer," said Media News Senior Vice President Jim Janiga during Monday's negotiations.

Janiga noted that Page One designers may remain on site in Woodland Hills, though it remains unclear who that person or persons is.

"It was reassuring to hear from Janiga that all people impacted by the consolidation will be offered the opportunity to transfer," said Andrea Hescheles, a page designer/copy editor.

The Guild also presented its second contract proposal to MediaNews Group representatives. The company withdrew its initial proposals to eliminate night-differential pay, possible reduction in the number of holidays and, furlough language that would have provided for month-long furloughs. Additionally, tentative agreements were reached on union steward leave of absence for Guild activities and a twenty-four month term for the new contract.

Daily News stewards Andrea Hescheles, Steven Rosenberg, George Sanchez and Chris Wiley were present along with CWA 9400/SCMG Vice President Vicki Di Paolo.

MediaNews was represented by Jim Janiga while Teresa Saplad took notes for company officials.