Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New York Times Guild Members “Willing to Fight”

NYTimes eXaminer
An antidote to the "paper of record"

By Chris Spannos

Strife is gripping the New York Times newsroom and members of the Newspaper Guild are demanding that management settle on a contract.

“We’re in the15th month of talks with no end in sight,” Grant Glickson, chair of the Times Newspaper Guild bargaining unit, told NYT eXaminer.

The Guild’s contract expired March 31, 2011. They have been locked in negotiations with Times management since then.

The Guild’s struggle to secure a new contract comes in the wake of increasing insecurity for staffers at the newspaper.

Last Wednesday, the day after May Day, the Times company laid off 50 non-union staff members.

Glickson, who has been active with the Guild for 18 of his 24 years at the newspaper, said that the union provides “A measure of job security; an enhanced severance package; superior health insurance that can’t be unilaterally cut by the company; a defined-benefit pension plan (management’s plan was frozen years ago); union representation in case of discipline; plus all benefits that come with collective bargaining.”

The Times gave former CEO Janet Robinson a $24.4 million severance package at the end of last year. The Guild says that the annual cost of everything it is seeking in negotiations is about 80 percent of that package and would cover 1,100 employees.

In a video published Monday, “New York Times journalists call on management to settle contract dispute,” Times reporters expressed their frustration:

“It’s frustrating that the contract negotiations haven’t gotten anywhere. And, you know, we’re living with this uncertainty all the time,” said Amy Harmon who is a Times reporter and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

The Guild provides pay scales and benefits at the Times that continue to set the standard for newspapers across the nation.

Another Times reporter, Kevin Sack, commenting on the excellence of the paper and benefits of being in the Guild said in the video, “… all that is put at risk by these negotiations that we’re in the middle of right now.”

“This is important to us. Let’s do something about it,” said Harmon.

Explaining the role of the Newspaper Guild in today’s economic crisis, Glickson told NYTX that “Historically, labor unions have helped build and maintain the middle class, and the wages and benefits the Guild’s contract provide should help members get through these tough times – times many of our members are reporting on and analyzing.”

NYTX asked Glickson about the recent actions Times staffers have taken to protest silently outside the Page-One meeting last March, and also protesting at a shareholder meeting late last April.

“Members of the Times unit have never been so engaged or willing to fight to preserve the protections and benefits that have historically been in their contract.”

“These demonstrations are evidence of that as they were all organized by our members, not the Guild,” he said.

Glickson explained that the union’s only role in the protests was to provide buttons, stickers and signs and that the members did the rest.

Chris Spannos is Editor of NYT eXaminer. See all NYTX coverage of Times staff and labor.

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