Thursday, September 14, 2006

Contract ratified
The members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild (CWA Local 37082) voted to accept a two-year contract proposal that included a wage freeze. The Guild’s policy is to not announce the vote totals. What we can say is just about half of the members took time to participate, and there was a significant "no" vote.

This contract proposal did not receive the unanimous support of the Guild negotiating team, but a majority did recommend a very reluctant yes vote. The majority of the team decided that the time is not right for a labor battle.

We are disappointed that the company has chosen to not invest in its employees, many of whom are facing massive cost-of-living increases. We think that’s a bad business decision.

We are deeply concerned about the Seattle Times Company’s approach to labor relations. The company resisted engaging the Guild bargaining team in true negotiations. It dismissed many of the proposals brought forward by the Guild, which came directly from surveys of the employees and most of which cost the company no money. Its answers to proposals were often slow in coming and cynical in nature. This only lengthened the bargaining process and increased tensions between the bargaining teams.

The Seattle Times repeatedly referred to the union as a “third party” in negotiations. The company fails to recognize that its employees ARE the Guild.

Regrettably, we are forced to conclude that the Seattle Times does not want to bargain with its employees in good faith. Our sincere desire is the company comes to future negotiations understanding that the people sitting across the table represent the interests of more than 600 of its employees - and we hope the company displays a lot more respect.

After hearing all of the discontent in ratification meetings, the Guild bargaining team encourages the members to add their individual voices to the comments below.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Final versions of the contract ready for downloading

Go to www.pnwguild.org

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Guild/CWA Contract Ratification
Questions and Answers


Q: Where and when will the Seattle Times contract ratification vote take place?
A: The ratification meetings and voting will take place at the Fairview Club, 2022 Boren Ave., which is located southeast of the Times across Denny Way. The meetings will take place over two days at the following times: 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, and noon and 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14. The votes will be counted after the final meeting.

Q: Who may vote on the proposed Seattle Times contracts?
A: Full members in good standing are eligible to vote on the contract for their unit. The Guild contract covers Advertising, Circulation, News and Marketing. The Composing contract covers the Composing department. If you’re unsure of your membership status, call the Guild office at 206-328-1190.

Q: I’m a new employee. Do I get to vote?
A: New employees may vote if they sign an information card and make provisions to pay dues (most people choose payroll deduction). Sign-up materials for new members will be available at the ratification meetings. If people aren’t new, and they don’t show up on our membership roster, we will ask them to vote a challenge ballot until we can verify their membership information.

Q: Will the vote be by a show of hands?
A: No, the vote will be by secret ballot. You will have to sign next to your name on our membership roster to receive a ballot.

Q: I want to ask the bargaining team some questions before I vote. Will the team be available?
A: Yes. At every ratification meeting, the bargaining team will make a presentation on the changes to the contract, discuss its recommendation and answer questions from members. The meetings also provide an opportunity for members to express their opinions to others. We hope that members will attend and listen before voting.

Q: I will be on vacation and out of town the week of the vote. Can I still vote?
A: No, you must be present to vote. The only exception made is for employees who are out of town for work purposes, either because of their regular assignment (e.g., reporters in the Olympia and Washington D.C. bureaus) or a special assignment (e.g., on assignment to a convention or other event). For these employees, we have provisions for voting by fax. If you wish to make such arrangements, call the Guild office at 206-328-1190.

Q: Do a certain percentage of members have to vote in order for the vote to be valid?
A: No. The vote will be decided by a simple majority of those voting.

Q: Are we going to take a strike authorization vote during the ratification meetings?
A: At this time, no.

Q: Will the bargaining team put its recommendation on the blog before the vote?
A: Probably not. The blog is open to anyone on the web, and it’s not the best place for conversations that should take place among members only. The team hasn’t yet met to discuss its recommendation, but will do so prior to the vote. The team will discuss its recommendation at the ratification meetings.

Q: Can members see copies of the new contract prior to voting?
A: Yes, copies of the proof document will be available as soon as the final version is set. Summaries of changes to both contracts are available for download on the Guild web site, pnwguild.org.

Friday, August 25, 2006

See the contract "highlights"

We've posted the major tentative agreements reached in contract talks between the Guild and Times management at www.pnwguild.org.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A blog ourobouros

Hey, look! (Former Times reporter) Eli Sanders at The Stranger is reading our blog.
Wave hello to Eli, everyone.

To see his blog entry, click here.

So ... do you think he'll blog about our post referencing his post?

Composing: Tentative agreement

Composing-unit bargainers met with company officials Thursday evening to wrap up final proposals and come to a tentative agreement on a contract. They hope to be able to hold ratification meetings and voting on the same dates as the main unit (Sept. 13 and 14).

The contract wrapped up with tentative agreements on:
  • Changes to the life and disability plan language
  • The company's proposal on picket-line language

We withdrew outstanding proposals on:
  • Increasing contributions to the pension fund
  • 90-day notice of a sale or closure
  • Successorship
  • Wage increases
  • Restoring Sandra Raynor (formerly Tollefson) to journey-level status
Chapel chair Rena Mefford said of the Raynor proposal: "I’d like to make a note that this was the last item to come off. There was a lot of objection to this, and this was very important to our group."

I'd like to thank Rena and the other Guild bargainers who worked so hard on the Composing-unit contract: Dan Beaumont, Gene Balk, Darryl Sclater and Guild AO Liz Brown. Thanks also to the main-unit team for participating in the opening session of Composing talks.

(Yoko)

Voting on September 13 and 14

By Liz Brown
Guild Administrative Officer

The tentative agreement reached with The Seattle Times will be put to a ratification vote on two upcoming dates, Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 13 and 14. The polling place will be at the Fairview Club, across Denny Way adjacent to the Times. Exact times will be posted later, and mobilization coordinators will distribute fliers in the workplace prior to the vote.

Copies of the tentative agreement will be available for review as soon as the proofing process is complete. The Guild also will distribute a summary document, but as always, we encourage members to read the contract. Know and understand what you’re voting on.

The ratification meetings will feature presentations from the bargaining team, which includes the following elected leaders and rank-and-file Times members: Times Unit Chairman Gene Balk (news research); Guild Local President Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe (Features copy desk); Times Vice-Chair for News, Paul Morgan (copy desk); Times Vice-Chair for Advertising Bob Johnston (Sales, majors advertising); Times Vice-Chair for Circulation Barbara Heller (Assistant district adviser, Home Delivery, City zone); Times Composing Chapel Chairwoman Rena Mefford; Times Composing member Dan Beaumont; Senior Clerk and Shop Steward Patrick Fry (Inside Circ.); Shop Steward Darryl Sclater (Assistant district adviser, Home Delivery, East zone); and Advertising Account Executive and Shop Steward Sheri Williams.

The Times bargaining team worked many hours on the tentative agreement reached Aug. 23. The team felt it had hammered as hard as it could on the issues that meant the most to our members.

We want to thank Advertising Sales Associate Marilyn Ige for showing up the day the Guild presented its initial wage-increase proposal. Marilyn took time from a very busy day to make an eloquent and impassioned statement to Times management on behalf of her co-workers. She spoke from the heart about what a wage freeze would mean for sales associates.

We also want to thank the Commission Sales employees in Advertising who attended the meetings in which their special section of the contract was discussed and negotiated: Bonnie McSwain, Jaime Ladner, Kathy Nielsen, Michael Richard and Marlene Tomberg.

The team also thanks our good brother Irvin Stout, a research economist for CWA international, who came here to review the Seattle Times finances for us.

A number of members have said they missed Stout’s report when it was posted earlier on this blog. It is available below:

To read Irvin Stout's report, please click here

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Now it’s up to you

Three months of bargaining ended Wednesday with a tentative contract agreement between the Guild and Times management.

In the eyes of your Guild team, however, that simple statement is layered with disappointment, frustration, pride and even a little resignation. The Guild team agreed to drop the birthday holiday, accept the wage freeze and a version of the management rights clause. In return we get the company to pull its poison pills: The 2 of 10 proposal and the exemptions for the editorial writers and cartoonist. We’ll have a more thorough list later, along with proofs of the contract you’re going to be voting on.

Disappointment. We got very little in return for all the “goodwill” extended to the company by the Guild over the past six years. Management simply wasn’t moving.

Frustration. All the pleas and speeches in the world left us in the same place we started: Facing a company determined to extract yet another concession from its employees.

Pride. The members of this team argued with passion, persistence and eloquence.

Resignation. We now send this contract to you for a vote. There will probably be no unanimous recommendation from the Guild team. None of us likes this contract. We think the company could have given us more in recognition of the cooperation we extended in the past six years and in return for a wage freeze. But that’s not that way this company operates. Anyone who’s been paying attention during bargaining can see that. Compromise is not a strong point of Times management.

So it’s your call now. A couple of things to chew on.

1) This is a short contract. That’s little consolation to our brothers and sisters who are barely hanging on. We realize that. But this experience has been a galvanizing one for your Guild team. No matter what happens with this vote, we’re going to do everything we can to come back in two years stronger. We hope you’ll be there with us.

After all, just imagine what our situation would be WITHOUT the protection of our union.

2) A “no” vote does NOT mean we go on strike, but it also doesn’t guarantee leverage with the company. A “no” vote has to come with some kind of action from the membership. We don’t know what form that action might take. That’s certainly something to discuss on the blog and during the ratification meetings.

But know this: If you vote this contract down, be ready to do SOMETHING. Wear your shirts. Display stickers. Come to bargaining sessions.

The ratification vote will probably occur in about two weeks, after the Guild has proofed and re-proofed the contract and sent it to the company for a once-over. During that time, we hope all of you will send in your comments.

We also can’t stress enough the importance of coming to the ratification votes. This is your chance to have a voice. The team will be there to take questions. We’ll let you know the particulars as soon as we can.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What does it all mean?

Guild and Times bargainers spent Tuesday's session searching for meaning.

Specifically, we're trying to get to the bottom of what the company's "management rights" proposal is trying to say.

The company's original proposal on Article 26.1 is to add the following language to the contract:
"All management functions which the Publisher has not modified or restricted by a specific provision of this Agreement are retained and vested exclusively in the Publisher."


Both sides have since added and subtracted some language to this proposal, in an attempt to clarify and to reach common ground.

This clause was in the contract from 1986 to 2000, but was left out (because of management's error) of the contract ratified at the end of the strike.

The company's position is that because the deletion was inadvertent, it should be restored to the contract. Our position is that anything the membership didn't vote for should be treated as new language to the contract.

So with that in mind, we started asking some questions.

Times Labor Relations Director Chris Biencourt said that a management-functions clause is to reserve for management decisions such as what products the company's going to make, how many employees it's going to have, and where the business will be located.

We're OK with that, but as Guild Administrative Officer Liz Brown pointed out, those are rights that management has inherently, with or without this kind of clause.

Because we think the company already has those kinds of rights, we asked several questions to try to figure out what inclusion of this clause would mean.

The problem the company faces is this: Because the clause used to be in the contract, if it gets left out of the contract, the union can use the absence against the company in an arbitration. When something comes out of a contract, arbitrators interpret that as meaning something.

The problem the union faces is this: If we add this to a contract that doesn't currently include it, the company could assert that it has brand-new rights that it didn't have before, and that could give it extra weight in an arbitration as well.

We don't want to accept language that would in any way limit our ability to bargain over company decisions that would negatively affect members.

The Guild bargaining team is attempting to work out a compromise that would address the concerns from both sides, and hopes to be able to resolve this last outstanding issue at Wednesday's session.