Monday, January 09, 2006

Let The Good Times Roll The Credits

As Kenny Loggins once said, This Is It. The battle is over, and this blog is going to make like Ames and close its doors for good. Before I go, though, I would like to thank some important people.

-- Thank you to Theresa for her wonderful blog posts, and most importantly, her friendship.

-- Thank you to Jill and Robyn for spreading the good word in Salem, and for all of their encouragement.

-- Thank you to my brothers and sisters on the Central Desk. Even those of you who disagreed with me never let our differences get in the way of working well together.

-- Thank you to everyone who posted comments on this blog. Everyone on both sides of the issue conducted himself/herself with class, and the discussions people had here were definitely the lifeblood of the blog.

-- Thank you to everyone who took time to read what I wrote. I know reading my prose is about as fun as using your Do-It-Yourself Gallbladder Surgery Kit, so I appreciate your time and patience.

-- Thank you to the union committee, and I mean that. I disagree with what they did, but I admire them for doing it. They stood up for what they believe in, even though doing so put them at odds with management and ownership. That takes guts. You guys have my respect.

-- Thank you to the NLRB for recycling the "voting booth" after the election ended. That was just sad.

I guess that's it. I'm glad the battle is over, but I'm going to miss writing this blog. It was a lot of fun.



Saturday, January 07, 2006

Grand finale

Election results:

82 "NO"
52 "YES"

Now let's get back to what's really important: Making kick-ass newspapers.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And ... in the end ...

Judgment Day is upon us. Voting begins tomorrow night. Thus, this will be the final blog post before the election.

I've been trying to figure out what to write in this final post. I think I have made my opinions known; there isn't much more I can add at this point. I thought about penning a ra-ra, Vince Lombardi speech, but it's too late for that now. We all know how we're going to vote, and I'm no motivational speaker, anyway.

I guess I'm at a loss for words. And if you've been reading this blog at all, you know that doesn't happen very often.

So I'm just going to close with a few thoughts. Take care.

-- No matter which side of the issue you are on, VOTE. I'd hate for the union to fail or pass by, say, five votes ... with 10 people not voting.

-- Tensions are running high. We all know that. Let's try to be kind to one another, though.

-- When this is all said and done, I hope we can put our differences aside and work together to publish the best newspapers we can. Our readers deserve it.

-- I know some people want to strangle me right now. That's OK ... well, so long as they don't really do it! (I'm fragile.) Seriously, though, I hope that my "enemies" at least respect two things: I spent a lot of time standing up for what I believe, and that the discussion on this blog (not necessarily what I wrote, but the comments) have benefited us all. We needed a place to talk.

-- A lot of people have asked me who I think is going to win. It's going to be very, very close. To me, it sounds like people are 50/50. I think that gives the union the advantage, though, because some of the people claiming they're going to vote "no" are going to vote "yes" on the secret ballot. It's going to be very interesting, that's for sure.

-- Over the last few weeks, I've heard many comments about this blog, both positive and negative. Usually, these comments are accompanied by comments about Andy's blog, both positive and negative. I'm glad people have read and thought about both blogs, but this isn't a Battle of the Blogs. (Sounds like a lame reality show, huh?) I hope the focus will remain on the issues, not some "Joe vs. Andy" feud that doesn't really exist. My only problem with Andy personally is that he's a Yankees fan. Other than that -- well, and this whole union thing -- he's OK with me.

-- Did I really say above that I was at a loss for words?

-- I'm not management. I'm not on the union committee. I'm one of the people in the middle, just like most of you.

Let me be clear: I'm not smarter than anyone else, nor do I know better than anyone else. But I think it's fair to say that among all of us "middle men," no one has thought more about the union than I have. Therefore, I'd like to think that when I advocate a big "NO!", that means something.

I'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Computer assisted reporting?

It's becoming a fad to Google "newspaper union" or "CNHI," see what articles come up, and copy and paste those articles into a blog post. I thought it looked like a fun thing to try, so I went hunting for some articles of my own.

I think I found a good one.

I discovered an article detailing some recent contracts at union newspapers. The article was quite blunt in saying how disappointing the contracts were.

Where did I find this article, you ask? You're going to love this:


Here it is:

Health care dominates, wage increases slight


Several TNG-CWA locals negotiated new contracts in recent weeks -- although not always to their liking—while others continued to slug it out with corporate managers spooked by slumping prices for newspaper stocks, an uncertain advertising outlook and, most tellingly, a continued escalation of health care costs.

A tentative three-year settlement at the Buffalo News was achieved after Guild members ramped up a mobilization campaign that included a sign-bearing march of 100 employees throughout the plant. The contract retains employer-paid health care while raising wages about 2% per year, as well as adding a pay upgrade for outside classified ad reps and a new incentive plan for customer service employees handling classified ads.

Full-time employees will be paid a $425 signing bonus, while part-timers will get $300. A membership ratification date had not been set at press time.

Also reaching tentative agreement on a contract were Guild-represented employees of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who were scheduled to vote on the deal as The Guild Reporter went to press. The details were so unfavorable, however, that the bargaining and executive committees stressed they were only reluctantly “recommending that members vote ‘yes’ on a package that falls short of our goals on the biggest points.”

One of the biggest disappointments in the four-year package is a stingy wage increase of only 1.5% each January, retroactive to the beginning of this year, and a discretionary pay pool of 1% each year—with the 2005 portion to be paid as a lump-sum bonus rather than as a wage increase. But minimum wage scales also will rise, by 2% in each of the first two years and 2.5% in the latter two. ...

Health care demands kicked off contract bargaining at the Patriot-News in Pennsylvania, where management hit members of the Harrisburg Newspaper Guild with a proposal that they pick up a third of their health insurance premiums—even as the newspaper’s non-unionized employees would continue to receive free health care. The cost to Guild members would range from $141.14 a month for single employees to $356.64 a month for family coverage, prompting local President David DeKok to observe that the demand was “a non-starter.”

Interestingly, a representative of the Newhouse-owned paper acknowledged that the demand was not being made for economic reasons, but because of past disagreements between the Guild and management that had fostered a difficult working environment. “Editorial employees work hard,” he conceded. “But there have been a number of instances over the years where our efforts to streamline the process were challenged by the Guild.”

Buffalo has employer-paid health care -- that's cool -- but their raises stink. "About 2%" probably means a bit less than that. Most of us can do better than that at the ETPC without a union's help, thank you very much.

And as for Milwaukee, a 1.5 percent increase is incredibly small -- and that's all those workers have to look forward to for four years. Oh, boy! Sign me up!

The Pennsylvania news is a bit scary, too. A lot of good the union is doing those employees. A lot of good an adversarial work environment is doing for those people.

One would figure that on the Guild's own Web site, it would try to present the best-case scenario. Try to paint a rosy picture of how great the Guild is and what it can do for newspaper employees. This is the best the Guild can come up with? This is the group some of us want to represent our interests? Where's the track record? Why would things work out better for the ETPC than it did in Milwaukee or Buffalo?

If you vote "yes," you're voting for an institution that -- to its credit -- is admitting it has NOT been successful recently. By its own admission, it hasn't gotten the job done.

And I won't vote for someone or something who can't get the job done.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Taking the test

The other day, management handed out a notice titled "Questions for Local $31032." (The dollar sign is my addition.) It's been a long time since I've taken a test, so I figured I'd give this exam a try. I've got my No. 2 pencil sharpened. And, just for fun, I'm making stray marks all over my answer sheet.

OK, here goes.

1. Will the union guarantee me in writing that I will receive 1 cent more than I am currently making as a result of collective bargaining?

As detailed in this blog, there is no guarantee anyone will get a raise. Some people could actually end up taking pay cuts. If the union were able to negotiate a raise, employees would have to give up something else, anyway -- no one would make out like a bandit.

2. Will the union guarantee me in writing that I will not lose anything I now have as a result of collective bargaining?

No, because it's likely you and I will lose something. I don't know what they are willing to part with, though, because they won't say.

3. Will the union guarantee me in writing that I will never be forced to pay money to the union in order to work here?

No, they won't.

4. What exactly do union dues amount to? How long will they stay at that amount?

Dues will be several hundred dollars per year, depending on how much you make. A Minimum Dues chart is in the constitution. Please look at it. Management members have copies.

5. What specifically am I guaranteed to get in return for my dues?


6. What exactly does the union do if I can't or don't want to pay dues?

There is some information about this in the CWA Constitution. That's all I'm going to say, because I hope everyone will ask for and read a copy of the constitution.

7. Why hasn't the union mentioned terms such as "assessments, reinstatement fees, initiation fees and fines?"

For the same reason a politician doesn't tell you he's going to raise taxes and cut programs -- because then you won't vote for him/her. It's usually a more effective strategy to promote general goals, ignore the negative and hope the people won't realize what you're doing.

8. When do I get my own copies of the union's constitution? Why did I learn of these documents from my employer and not the union?

Because an informed populace will vote "no." The union does not want you to know that there are things like a Minimum Dues Schedule and rules against negotiating anything for yourself with your employer.

9. Will the union guarantee me in writing that I will never be put on trial by the union?

Nope. If the union passes, there's a new sheriff in town.

10. Will the union guarantee me in writing that I will never be on strike here if the union gets in?

I don't think a strike would be likely, but no, they can't guarantee it.

11. If I get permanently replaced while out on strike here, will the union find me another job at another paper, like the Herald?

Methinks you'll be on your own.

12. In the event of a strike here, would the union guarantee to pick up the cost of my health insurance premiums?

I highly doubt it. Local $31032 finished 2004 with a deficit, so there isn't much money available.

13. How many elections has Local $31032 won in the last five years?

The third digit is the answer.

14. How many members does Local $31032 have at this time?

Most recent information I have says 329.

15. Isn't it true that Local $31032 recently gave up seniority in negotiations at The Boston Herald so that management could eliminate whomever they wished?

Yes, it is. There are some older employees who are voting "yes" primarily because they feel a union would protect those with seniority. There's no guarantee that's going to happen, though. Maybe the union would rather protect the interest of the young. Who knows?

16. Why has the union told us virtually nothing about itself in this campaign?

Because the more you know about the union, the less there is to like. (By that I mean the union as an institution ... please don't interpret that as a personal attack on committee members. The committee members whom I know, I like.)

17. Why did the union want the election site in Beverly moved to Gloucester?

We all know why. Let's just say that when the union cries out "WE are the union," "WE" doesn't include everyone.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Muchos memos

We have all received tons of memos recently from management. There have been notices about the union ... health care ... 401(k) ... profit sharing ... and, of course, forgetting to put cover sheets on our TPS reports. (Office Space reference, if you haven't seen it.)

It's getting easy for memos to get lost in the shuffle, but please make sure you have and read the memo distributed Thursday regarding voting procedures. No one wants there to be any confusion or controversy Thursday and Friday!

Friday, December 30, 2005

What did you say?

I received a letter from the union today. If you have read the letter, you probably know what I'm going to discuss.

Top of Page 2:

"With all due respect to the other departments, editorial employees are the most intelligent, most creative and most ruthless hard workers in the company. We create the product day after day, and we deserve a say in our futures. There is no reason to underestimate our talent and ingenuity, or our collective ability to secure a fair contract."

What a reprehensible thing to write. The union has insulted hundreds of hardworking, intelligent, talented employees. They've also made all of us editorial employees look like a bunch of jerks.

This is what happens when there's a union. You elect a group of people to speak for you, to put words in your mouth. Sometimes, those words are sweet as chocolate. All too often, though, those words taste more like a different type of brown substance. The committee has proven that they are not fit to talk for you and me.

I do love the irony, though. The union makes a claim that they are the smartest ... and in the process they make themselves look very dumb. Talk about a tactical mistake. They tried to rally the troops, but all they did was tick off the whole company.

So much for that whole team unity thing, huh? I see your true colors, shining through ...