Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Day of Decision for NY Times Newspaper Guild Members

Guild staff member Patricia Trattner helped tally the votes

On Nov. 13, 2012 hundreds of New York Times Newspaper Guild members jammed the Hotel Trades Council hall, nearly four blocks from the Times building, to vote on the tentative contract that was reached on Oct. 28. 


When Guild President Bill O'Meara called for a vote on the tentative Guild-Times contract on Nov. 13 (left), the hands went up throughout the packed hall, Guild staff member Patricia Trattner helped tally the votes (below right), while those in the standing room section voted on their feet. (Photos by Suzanne DeChillo)

Times Guild members in the back of the hall, including Peter Applebome (in blue shirt), make sure their votes are counted.
Times Guild members in the back of the hall, including Peter Applebome (in blue shirt), make sure their votes are counted


Debate over ratification had been spirited and widespread in the days leading to the vote. Some insisted the terms of the deal were inadequate and should be rejected, while others said they were the best they were likely to get without resorting to more drastic means and a riskier confrontation with management. But at the two New York meetings there was little debate about the deal. Members came to vote.


Guild President Bill O’Meara reviewed the highlights of the contract, addressed the risks of rejecting the deal and joined a majority of the Guild Bargaining Committee in recommending that members ratify it. Voting was done separately by each of the two Guild units – print and digital – at The Times that would be consolidated under the new contract. If either unit voted against ratification, the deal would have gone down.


In the end, members were decisive in ratifying the deal. The print side, including those based in Washington and elsewhere, voted for the contract by 472 to 43 with one abstention. The digital unit voted for ratification, 49 to 21.

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For Christoph Fuhrmans of the New York Times digital unit and his wife, Sharilyn Hufford of the print unit (above left), the ratification vote results meant they both would be covered by the same contract. Their daughter, Hannah, abstained. Above right, Guild President Bill O'Meara briefs members on the contract before the vote. Below, the ayes had it.

 Times Guild members at the first of two Nov. 13 meetings in New York voting in favor of contract ratification. (Photo by Steve Berman)


NEW YORK, Nov. 13 – Journalists, advertising professionals and other Guild-represented employees at The New York Times on Tuesday ratified a new contract that preserves a defined benefit pension plan and increases overall compensation over the next three years, the Newspaper Guild of New York said.

By a show of hands in New York, Washington and other bureaus, Guild members voted in two groups by a combined 521-to-64 with one abstention in favor of ratifying the contract. The vote followed a vigorous internal debate over top management’s willingness to lavishly reward itself and its former CEO while refusing to come across with higher pay increases for the staff that actually produces the newspaper and website.

Guild leaders asserted – and a large majority of members apparently agreed – that the contract, reached on Oct. 28 with the help of a private mediator, offered the best terms possible without resorting to more drastic action. Throughout this year, Times Guild members, especially those in the newsroom, engaged in a series of job actions that included a silent protest outside a daily editors’ meeting, taking a work break en masse and leafleting the annual shareholders meeting.

In explaining the highlights of the contract to one of two packed meetings on Tuesday, Guild President Bill O’Meara lauded the new found activism of Times Guild members, which he said was crucial in enabling Guild negotiators to win compensation gains, despite the demands from company executives as recently as September for a concessionary contract.

“The level of engagement and activism among members at The Times has been greater than anything I’ve seen in my 24 years at the Guild,” O’Meara said. “Without it, we would never have been able to accomplish what we did.”

The new contract, which came after 21 months of bargaining, will replace Times members’ traditional pension plan with an innovative defined benefit plan known as the adjustable pension plan, or APP. Unlike traditional plans that encumber employers with unpredictable and often volatile unfunded liabilities, the APP requires only a single annual contribution, not unlike the 401(k) plans that employers prefer, but still provides participants with monthly retirement income for life. The APP still requires government approval, which the Guild is confident it will get.

Within the next 30 days, Times Guild members will receive a 3 percent bonus, and starting March 31, 2013, they will receive the first of three 2 percent annual raises. Starting in 2014, they become eligible for an incentive bonus of up to 2 percent, based on the same plan that covers upper managers, and which would have yielded a payout of 1.1 percent, based on its recent average. The contract expires on March 30, 2016.  

The contract, which also combines two employee groups – those of the newspaper and those of its digital operations – under a single unified contract, also fortifies the independent fund that pays employee medical claims with additional company contributions and preserves severance pay for current employees.
Times Guild members listen to brief explanations of the new tentative contract before voting for ratification on Nov. 13. (Photo by Suzanne DeChillo)

The Guild, Local 31003 of the Communications Workers of America, represents 1,100 text, photo, web and video journalists at The Times, along with several other newsroom, advertising and other professional and administrative employees. Overall, the Newspaper Guild of New York represents some 2,800 employees, mostly at New York-based news organizations, including Thomson Reuters, Consumer Reports, Time Inc., Standard & Poor’s The Nation, WPIX, Scholastic, Amsterdam News, and El Diario.

CONTACT: Bill O’Meara – 212-575-1580

Friday, November 9, 2012

Intellectual Imperialism

By Robert Daraio
Broadcast Union News

Danger, Educated Union Member
In order to think about ways to align labor rights and human rights and create the changes needed to eliminate the poverty and oppression caused by those ignoring the basic rights that all people should reasonably expect to enjoy; we must address the concept of Intellectual Imperialism.

Intellectual Imperialism is the exploitation of intellectual capital by focusing our best and brightest scientific and engineering minds on developing innovations in labor saving, rather than life saving, technology. The mindset that only by reducing the number, and cost, of workers can a mature industry remain profitable, is a perception in dire need of change if international labor and human rights standards are to be effectively implemented and enforced.

We invest our government and corporate research funding capital, and the efforts of our best people, creating new and improved ways to have fewer and fewer people able to run our industrial plants, rather than focusing that same set of limited resources on discovering innovative ways of employing the same number of people to create more, better quality, more useful products, whose production would create even higher levels of employment.

Better products increase demand, greater demand increases industrial employment to meet that demand, higher employment increases disposable income, more disposable income creates more consumer spending, and all contribute to higher profits, and therefore a stronger economy.

This is not to say that progress and innovation, geared towards increasing profit, is any way a bad thing. The profit motive has served to create the funding for all manner of innovations.

From early civilizations prior to the first time an ancient Greek, Phoenician, or Norse sea captain asked their kings and queens to sponsor exploration to find new trade routes, products, and treasure, profit has driven innovation.

Scientific and engineering advances have improved the quality of life worldwide, at all economic levels. We must continue to innovate, but we must also change the focus of our innovative efforts such that innovation creates, rather than eliminates, employment, increasing, rather than reducing, industry’s ability to generate profits for the benefit of their stakeholders.

The reallocation of capital and human resources to maximize education and employment opportunities is vital to the health and prosperity of our nation and the international community.

A greater percentage of corporate and public research and development funds must be used to improve training and education. This is essential to properly prepare our young people for their place in the future work force.  Keeping the skills of today’s work force vital and current, so their skill set can continue to evolve, is key to keeping them prepared for the constant work place change that is the hallmark of the 21st century global economy.
Corporate funding to permanently endow innovative elementary and secondary school programs; corporate and union funded endowment of professorships, teaching assistantships, and research staffs at universities; government, corporate, and labor partnerships in the endowment of international educational exchange programs will create a permanent environment for ongoing educational innovation.

In order to foster the cultural and core value changes required, it is imperative that governments, multinational corporations, organized labor, human rights organizations, academia, and community activists begin the dialogue necessary to form the consensus needed to implement meaningful, lasting, change.

A key element is the agreement and commitment by all International Labor Organization (ILO) member nations to implement changes in their domestic labor laws and trade policies to create the ability for workers everywhere to have the protection of, and means to enforce, the four conventions comprising the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.[1]

The commitment to enforce the right to freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining; elimination of all forms of compulsory or forced labor; abolition of child labor; and finally, elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation with serious penalties universally imposed on violators is essential.[2]

Further, enforceable legislation needs to be passed guaranteeing that workers employed by international corporations anywhere in the world should be paid a wage that creates a standard of living equivalent to that enjoyed by that company’s workers with the best pay, benefits, and conditions employed in similar jobs. This is the only way to bring the race to the bottom to a halt and put an end to social dumping.

An international coalition of government, industry, and labor must come together to create a plan to design and implement a worldwide program of green infrastructure construction projects to replace outdated, crumbling, bridges, roads, railroads, water treatment, and power delivery systems in developed countries, and bring renewable, green, transportation, water and power delivery systems to developing nations.

This will create new business opportunities for capital investment as well as millions of management, administrative, technical, skilled, and unskilled jobs around the world. The investment in education will create the innovations needed to create this green transportation and utility infrastructure, which will create opportunities for capital investment in green mining, agricultural, industrial, and service industries, resulting in more employment, more corporate profits, and a higher standard of living for people everywhere.

If we do not, if we continue to ignore the ever-increasing hunger, squalor, sickness, ignorance, and worldwide economic and ecological damage, caused by the unregulated greed and shortsightedness of so many in political, industrial, labor, and social leadership, if we continue to march, with flags waving and bands playing, obliviously backward into the dark ages, the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren will be a millennium of darkness and despair.

YOU must choose, WE must choose, choose  between sitting by while our civilization spins into chaos, or standing up, helping our family, friends, and neighbors to stand up, then standing together, work in solidarity to make this world a cleaner, greener, healthier, more innovative and profitable place. A place where there is opportunity for all.

Robert Daraio is a Local Representative of The Newspaper Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003; the Recording Secretary of the New York Broadcast Trades Council; moderator of the Broadcast Union News website; and a 2011 graduate of the MALS program at the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.

[1] The ILO is the international organization responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labor standards. It is the only 'tripartite' United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programs promoting Decent Work for all. This unique arrangement gives the ILO an edge in incorporating 'real world' knowledge about employment and work. http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/lang--en/index.htm
[2] Adopted in 1998, the Declaration commits Member States to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions. These categories are: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labor, the abolition of child labor and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. http://www.ilo.org/declaration/thedeclaration/lang--en/index.htm