Friday, January 29, 2010

IATSE Local One Announcement: The Passing of Brother Patrick D. Ryan

The Passing of Brother Patrick D. Ryan
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is with a deep sense of sadness and regret that I must report to you the passing of our Brother Patrick D. Ryan on January 27, 2010. Brother Ryan worked throughout the jurisdiction most notably at CBS. Brother Ryan was initiated into Local One in 1999. He will be missed by family and friends alike. May he rest in peace.

Robert C. Score
Recording-Corresponding Secretary

Sunday, January 31, 2010, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00p.m.

Barrett's Funeral Home
424 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019

Funeral service:
Monday, February 1, 2010, 11:15 a.m.
St. Peter's Cemetery,
New Brunswick, New Jersey

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mid-level managers bonuses approved at Tribune Co., No decision yet for top execs

Mid-level Managers Bonuses Approved At Tribune Co., No Decision Yet For Top Execs

Judge Kevin Carey approved $45.6 million in bonuses for some 700 Tribune Company executives today (Jan 27) in federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington.

However, the judge took no action on two other components of the bonus program which would have meant more than $20 million more in bonuses for top corporate management.

Supported by other unions and the U.S. Trustee, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild (WBNG) objected to the proposed bonuses. Tribune, currently undergoing reorganization through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, has about $13 billion in debt.

The following statement was issued by M. William Salganik, past president of WBNG and its representative to the Tribune credtiors' committee.

We're disappointed that the judge has approved the first level of bonuses. Tribune is paying out the largest amount ever through this bonus - more than triple the amount it paid for 2008.

At the same time, operating cash flow is the lowest since the program started in 1997 - down more than one-third from 2008. We think it is too generous for the circumstances this year, and we believe that cash should be conserved to pay creditors and to invest in the business.

However, we're pleased that the judge has not approved the remaining two levels of extra payouts to top executives, which are much more generous than the "regular" bonuses.

We're glad that the objections by the Guild and other unions, and by the United States Trustee, has led the judge to give this bonus program such scrutiny.

We believe these bonuses are excessive for Tribune at this time. We hope the judge ultimately agrees.

Not just for Tribune, as it tries to emerge from bankruptcy, but for the economy as a whole, it's important to examine the role that executive bonuses should play.

The Guild believes companies that use an executive bonus program need to make sure it is truly tied to performance, and that the program provides the proper set of incentives.

In Tribune's case, the program rewards cash flow, not revenue, and the executives exceeded their targets through an aggressive program of shrinking the products and the workforce. We don't believe this is a good long-term business plan.

Finally, although Tribune says its executives wouldn't be motivated to work hard without bonuses, we think more highly of our bosses. While we sometimes disagree with them, we think they're dedicated professionals who would do their best with or without bonuses -- just as thousands of non-executive employees are working hard for Tribune every day with no bonuses.

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.


Contact: Bill Salganik, 410-964-5125, 410-245-6520 (mobile)

Judge OKs $45.6 Million in Bonuses for Tribune Execs

Jan 27, 2010

Top executives at the Tribune Co., parent company of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, will receive more than $45 million in bonuses following a court ruling Wednesday.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Carey in Wilmington, Del., approved a plan for the media giant to pay 720 company executives bonuses as early as February, the largest such payout in company history. He did not decide whether an additional $21 million could be paid to Tribune’s top brass.

In 2007, real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell took Tribune Co. private in a highly leveraged $8 billion deal. Tribune filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection the following year.

There have been several rounds of layoffs and salary freezes at Tribune properties since the December 2008 bankruptcy filing. The Los Angeles Times cut 300 jobs in 2009 and announced it would eliminate an additional 80 jobs this month.

“I think it’s unconscionable,” said Alan Mutter, a former editor at the Chicago Sun-Times who now blogs about the industry. Given the number of jobs that have been cut and the erosion of news coverage in communities served by Tribune, Mutter said the bonuses for top management are unwarranted. “I don’t see anything here that’s bonus worthy,” he said.

The decision also was met with strong disapproval from the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, one of Tribune’s unions. Although Tribune recently announced its cash flow approached $500 million in 2009, former Guild President M. William Salganik said the bonuses were inappropriate given Tribune’s unresolved debt.

“We think it is too generous for the circumstances this year, and we believe that cash should be conserved to pay creditors and to invest in the business,” Salganik said.

Help Stop Sam Zell And Tribune's Outrageous Abuse Of Corporate Power.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin J. Carey approved $ 45 million dollars in bonuses for Tribune executives today.

He has not yet ruled on an additional $21.4 million dollars in additional bonuses for top Tribune executives.

Contact Judge Carey and tell him that this bonus plan is a slap in the face to the people who produce the newspapers and keep the TV stations on the air to create the income that Tribune is distributing as bonuses to management.

No More Bonuses!

Contact Judge Kevin J. Carey at:

Chambers of the Honorable Kevin J. Carey,
Chief Judge U.S. Bankruptcy Court Wilmington, Del
5th Floor, Courtroom #5824
North Market Street
Wilmington, DE 19801

Call Judge Carey at: 302-252-2927

Don't wait, Judge Carey plans to make a decision this week on whether to allow Tribune to pay an additional $21.4 million dollars on top of the $45 million dollars in executive bonuses already approved.

In Solidarity,

Bob D

Judge Approves $45.6 Million In Tribune Co. Bonuses

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Carey approved a contested $45.6 million Tribune Co. bonus pool On Wednesday morning. This first executive bonus pool, one of three bonus plans requested by Tribune, is to be divided among a group of 720 managers and executives throughout the company.

The move comes after the Chicago-based media conglomerate last week asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Carey to consider the management bonuses separately from two other proposed bonus plans in hopes that the company could distribute checks as early as next month.

The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild and the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee have objected to all three bonus plans. Judge Carey overruled the objections in this instance but has yet to rule on the other two plans, which would deliver another $21.4 million to Tribune Co. top executives.

Bill Salganik, a past guild president and a member of a committee representing unsecured creditors in Tribune Co.'s bankruptcy, said the unions are glad the judge reserved judgment on what he called the two 'big bucks" bonus plans.

But "we still think the so-called annual bonuses are too high," he said.

The Guild was joined in its objection by the U.S. trustee, two Baltimore-based Teamsters locals, and the Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents 29 employees at television station WPIX.

Tribune Co. has argued the incentives the judge passed are necessary to motivate and reward the employees included in the bonus pools as well as make the media conglomerate's compensation plans competitive with the rest of the industry.

Moreover, the plan approved by the judge has been in place for years in one form or another, the company has said.

But the union has countered with several points.

First, only a small percentage of Tribune Co. employees are included in the bonus pools. Second, while the bonus plan has existed for years, it was altered by current management to be more generous, despite the company's weak performance and continuing bankruptcy.

In a strong year like 2008, for instance, Tribune Co. paid out $13.4 million in bonuses, or roughly 1.3 percent of cash flow, the union has argued. This year, it will pay $45.6 million, or almost 10 percent of cash flow.

"There has never been a plan like this one: an unprecedented payout of millions of dollars to a smaller number of executives during a year in which employee salaries were frozen "to share the sacrifice" and there was an historic low in operating cash flow," the guild argued in its objection.

Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and other dailies, along with 23 TV stations, filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008 because of dwindling advertising revenues and a crushing debt load of $13 billion. Much of that debt was amassed when real estate mogul Sam Zell took the company private in 2007.

In July, Tribune Co. petitioned the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for permission to pay out bonuses through three performance-based plans. The largest in dollar amount was the company's normal incentive bonus plan for top and middle managers. But the other two would pay much more per capita to a group of about 20 top managers, who are also included in the first plan.

Tribune Co. originally requested that Carey rule on all three plans together. On the same day last week that the company said it was willing to have the court "bifurcate" its ruling so the bonuses for the larger group of recipients might be expedited, Tribune Co. Chief Executive Randy Michaels informed employees that the company had generated cash flow of nearly $500 million during 2009 "thanks to a stronger-than-expected performance by both the broadcasting and publishing groups in the fourth quarter."

A Tribune Co. spokesman said at the time that this meant cash flow exceeded the original plan by 200 percent, meaning bonuses for the group of 720 would come in at a maximum of $45.6 million, if approved.

The unexpectedly strong results were largely due to a year of aggressive cost cutting, including layoffs, but Michaels' note also said that lower newsprint costs and a slightly better economy helped.

The ruling Wednesday's clears the way for the checks worth tens of millions of dollars to be distributed next month.

In approving the incentive plan, Carey said that Tribune is operating in a troubled industry which has seen roughly a dozen large media companies seek bankruptcy protection.

"Here, the evidence demonstrates that the debtor was performing well relative to its competitors," Carey said. "I conclude that the relief requested is justified by the facts and circumstances of the case."

Tribune Union Opposes $46 Million in Manager Bonuses

By Steven Church, with additional material by Michael Oneal, Tribune reporter

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Tribune Co. should be blocked from paying managers as much as $45.6 million in bonuses, The Newspaper Guild, one of the bankrupt newspaper publisher’s unions said in court papers.

The proposed bonus pool is “excessive by any measure,” because it comes when the company is experiencing a historic low in cash flow, attorneys for the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild wrote in an objection filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

“It seems way too generous for the circumstances this year,” said Bill Salganik, a past president of the guild and a member of a committee of unsecured creditors involved in Tribune’s bankruptcy.

Lawyers for the company are scheduled to be in court tomorrow before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey to defend the so-called management incentive plan, part of an annual bonus paid out since at least 1997, according to court papers.

Acting U.S. Trustee Robert DeAngelis also opposes the bonus plans, lawyers for DeAngelis said today in a court filing. The trustee’s office is an arm of the Justice Department that oversees bankruptcy cases.

Tribune, based in Chicago, filed for bankruptcy court protection in December 2008, about a year after real-estate billionaire Sam Zell’s $8.3 billion purchase of the publishing and television company. Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times and the namesake Chicago newspaper among other properties.

In July, Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, petitioned the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware for permission to pay from $21.5 million to about $67 million in bonuses through three separate performance-based plans.

The biggest was a continuation of Tribune Co.'s normal incentive bonus plan for both top and middle managers. The other two would reward a group of around 20 top managers for either navigating the bankruptcy process or "transforming" their business units.

A group of company unions objected to the request at a September court hearing, calling the bonuses top-heavy and too easy to earn. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey has yet to rule as he prepares a formal opinion on the matter.

Tribune Co. had originally requested that Carey rule on all three plans together. But on Wednesday, the company said it would be willing to have the court "bifurcate" its ruling so that the larger group of more than 700 managers could be rewarded in February for their 2009 performance.

In a separate note to employees Wednesday, Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels said that the company generated almost $500 million in cash flow during the year "thanks to a stronger-than-expected performance by both the broadcasting and publishing groups in the fourth quarter." The results owe much to cost-cutting efforts, but Michaels noted that lower newsprint costs and a slightly better economy also helped.

A spokesman said that level of cash flow exceeded the 200 percent threshold, meaning bonuses for the group of 720 would come in at a maximum of $45.6 million if approved. If the judge also approved the other two plans, they would pay out around $21 million to a much smaller group.

Tribune attorney Jonathan D. Lotsoff didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The bonuses are part of a broader incentive package that includes three separate pieces that could cost the company as much as $66 million. The union has opposed all three components since they were first proposed last fall.

The bonus proposal is tied to annual cash flow and could drain almost 11 percent of Tribune’s operating cash, the union said in court papers.
At a hearing in September, Tribune lawyers said the bonuses were necessary to keep managers motivated during troubled economic times.
The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at

Other unions with collective bargaining agreements with Tribune are expected join the Newspaper Guild in protesting the Tribune executive bonus plans. It is easy for corporations to generate a short term cash flow increase, if you layoff thousands of employees and don't care about the damage this and other operating cost cutting initiatives do to your products.

This bonus plan is a slap in the face to the people who produce the newspapers and keep the TV stations on the air to create the income that Tribune is distributing as bonuses to management.

Contact Judge Kevin J. Carey at:

Chambers of the Honorable Kevin J. Carey, Chief Judge
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Wilmington, Del
5th Floor, Courtroom #5
824 North Market StreetWilmington, DE 19801
Call the Judge at: 302-252-2927

Don't wait, Judge Carey plans to make a decision on whether to allow Tribune to pay $45 million dollars in executive bonuses by the end of this week.

In solidarity,

Bob D

Monday, January 25, 2010

Time to Protest Tribune Executive Bonuses, The Judge Wants To Hear Objections NOW

Hi All,

Now would be a good time for all the unions with Tribune collective bargaining agreements to contact the bankruptcy court to protest this outrageous executive bonus plan.

This bonus plan is a slap in the face to the people who produce the newspapers and keep the TV stations on the air to create the income that Tribune is distributing as bonuses to management.

The case is: re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District Delaware (Wilmington).
Contact Judge Kevin J. Carey at:

Chambers of the Honorable Kevin J. Carey, Chief Judge
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Wilmington, Del
5th Floor, Courtroom #5
824 North Market Street

Wilmington, DE 19801

Bankruptcy Judge Set To Give Tribune Co. Executives $45 Million in Bonuses
By Gillian Reagan

The bankrupt Tribune Co. wants to give up to $45 million in bonuses to hundreds of their managers.

A bankruptcy judge in Delaware is waiting for objections to their proposal and is set to make a final decision this week.

This summer, several organizations objected against the company's original proposal for $70 million in bonuses for executives. The Newspaper Guild wrote at the time:

"The proposed bonuses to top executives are excessive and may, in fact, have a detrimental effect on motivating others who contribute to the bottom line. Indeed, the payment of disproportionate bonuses to a select group of executives may have the opposite effect on the rank-and-file employees."

"Incentivizing employees is essential to Tribune's future success. We must continue motivating our people to overcome obstacles, achieve our performance goals and take the company to the next level," the Tribune's COO Randy Michaels wrote the court in a letter.

The Chicago-based Tribune Co., which owns 25 television stations and major newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008.

They faced what chairman Sam Zell called a “perfect storm” of forces troubling the media industry, along with $13 billion in debt.

According to the AP, Tribune Co. attorneys told the judge last Wednesday that the bonuses are typically paid in February and asked that they be considered separately from two other incentive plans the company has proposed

Sam Zell And Tribune Management Screwed His Employees

by Henry Blodget

There was some suggestion that Sam Zell was feeling the company's pain when he put Tribune into bankruptcy last year: He put $315 million of his own money into the buyout, after all ($315 million of $13 billion of debt), and surely he had just lost it. Well, don't go crying for Sam just yet.

Sam's $315 million didn't go to buy Tribune stock, which will likely end up nearly worthless. Sam's $315 million went for subordinated debt with a warrant to buy 40% of the company if and when he chose to do so.

For obvious reasons, Sam hasn't chosen to do so. This means that Sam is standing far ahead of common shareholders in the line as the company gets chopped up.

And who are those common shareholders? Tribune employees, of course.

And how did Tribune employees end up owning the stock?

Because Sam Zell financed the buyout deal partially by borrowing against the employees pension plan and using this money to buy them stock.

Tribune employees will now get demolished, while Sam and the company's other creditors divide up the assets. Sam probably won't get out whole, but he could end up not losing much, either. Especially since the Tribune is still generating cash (the bankruptcy was triggered by the company's earnings falling below a specified level, not by a default).

The NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin explains:

"Mr. Zell financed much of his deal’s $13 billion of debt by borrowing against part of the future of his employees’ pension plan and taking a huge tax advantage. Tribune employees ended up with equity, and now they will probably be left with very little." (The good news: any pension money put aside before the deal remains for the employees.)

As Mr. Newman, an analyst at CreditSights, explained at the time: “If there is a problem with the company, most of the risk is on the employees, as Zell will not own Tribune shares.” He continued: “The cash will come from the sweat equity of the employees of Tribune.”

And so it is...

Mr. Zell isn’t the only one responsible for this debacle. With one of the grand old names of American journalism now confronting an uncertain future, it is worth remembering all the people who mismanaged the company before hand and helped orchestrate this ill-fated deal — and made a lot of money in the process.

They include members of the Tribune board, the company’s management and the bankers who walked away with millions of dollars for financing and advising on a transaction that many of them knew, or should have known, could end in ruin.

It was Tribune’s board that sold the company to Mr. Zell — and allowed him to use the employee’s pension plan to do so. Despite early resistance, Dennis J. FitzSimons, then the company’s chief executive, backed the plan. He was paid about $17.7 million in severance and other payments. The sale also bought all the shares he owned — $23.8 million worth. The day he left, he said in a note to employees that “completing this ‘going private’ transaction is a great outcome for our shareholders, employees and customers.”

Well, at least for some of them.

Tribune’s board was advised by a group of bankers from Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, which walked off with $35.8 million and $37 million, respectively. But those banks played both sides of the deal: they also lent Mr. Zell the money to buy the company. For that, they shared an additional $47 million pot of fees with several other banks, according to Thomson Reuters. And then there was Morgan Stanley, which wrote a “fairness opinion” blessing the deal, for which it was paid a $7.5 million fee (plus an additional $2.5 million advisory fee).

On top of that, a firm called the Valuation Research Corporation wrote a “solvency opinion” suggesting that Tribune could meet its debt covenants. Thomson Reuters, which tracks fees, estimates V.R.C. was paid $1 million for that opinion. V.R.C. was so enamored with its role that it put out a press release.

I think Tribune's assertion that "incentivizing employees is essential to Tribune's future success," apparantly only applies to their already highly compensated executives and does not take in to account the damage this action will cause to the rest of Tribune's employees.

According to Andy Zipzer, editor of the Guild Reporter; "The best employees are motivated to do their best for a variety of reasons that have less to do with money and more to do with loyalty to the employer, pride in one's work, and a sense of responsibility."

I concur; loyalty, sacrifice, and responsibility is what Tribune management expects from the non-executive employees, how can they expect less from the corporate leadership? Handing out bonuses to the few, while cutting the pay and benefits of the rest, serves only to erode the employee loyalty and support that is vital to saving Tribune.

Don't let Sam Zell add insult to injury. Don't let Sam give $ 45 million dollars in bonuses to executives while the rest of Tribune's employees endure, pay and benefit cuts, massive layoffs, with nothing but more of the same to look forward to.

The case is: re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District Delaware (Wilmington).

Contact Judge Kevin J. Carey at:

Chambers of the Honorable Kevin J. Carey, Chief Judge
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Wilmington, Del
5th Floor, Courtroom #5
824 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

Call the Judge at: 302-252-2927

Don't wait, Judge Carey plans to make a decision on whether to allow Tribune to pay $45 million dollars in executive bonuses by the end of this week.

In solidarity,

Bob D

Labor Leadership Skills Certificate

Cornell Labor Leadership Skills training is designed for current and future leaders in labor and non-profit organizations. These workshops focus on skills useful to new or developing leaders. These skills-based online workshops help deepen the knowledge needed to build and re-build strong and effective organizations.

Online workshops are of three weeks duration based on 3.3 hours per week for a total of 10 contact hours (1.0 CEU).
These online workshops require access to the internet and email. Participants are expected to log in on at least 6 different days over the three week period.
These workshops include group projects and role plays to encourage participation and interaction with help from guest instructors from labor, academic, and labor relations professionals.
Participants successfully completing six different workshops receive a Labor Leadership Skills certificate from Cornell ILR.

2010 Online Workshops

Steward Training/Contract Administration: February 8-28, 2010

Effective Communication: March 8-28, 2010

Conflict Resolution: April 5-25, 2010

Negotiation Skills: May 3-23, 2010

Costing Out Contracts: June 7-27, 2010

Motivation and Productivity: August 9 – 29, 2010

Advanced Negotiation Skills: September 7-27, 2010

Running Effective Meetings: October 4 – 24, 2010

Strategic Action Planning: November 1 – 21, 2010

Grievance Writing: December 1 – 21, 2010

Online Workshop Fee: $300 (10% discount for unions sending 3 or more)

Who Will Benefit? Who Should Attend?

These workshops are applicable to non-profit organizations, community activists, union members, bargaining committee members and staff wishing to improve their leadership skills and improve the labor relations climate in the workplace.

The on-line workshops are designed to have participants check the website three times per week for three weeks. The total time commitment is 10 hours spread out over three weeks. Access to the Blackboard website is available 24 hours/ 7 days per week for three weeks (You log-on when you want, anytime).

To Register:
Click HERE to download the printable form
E-mail Cornell On-Line Training at:

Friday, January 22, 2010

DOJ Orders Newspaper Merger Breakup


In the same week that MediaNews Group announced plans to file Chapter 11 for its newspaper holding company, Affiliated Media, it’s been ordered by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to re-enter the daily newspaper business in Charleston, WV.

The DOJ announced that it has reached a proposed settlement with the Daily Gazette Company and MediaNews Group that requires the companies to restructure their newspaper joint operating arrangement and take other steps to remedy the anticompetitive effects of a 2004 transaction, which the DOJ charged was “part of a plan by the Daily Gazette Company to terminate publication of the Charleston Daily Mail and leave Charleston with a single daily newspaper, the Charleston Gazette.”

Three years after the transaction, in May 2007, DOJ filed a civil antitrust lawsuit alleging that the transaction violated the Clayton and Sherman Acts by consolidating ownership and control of the only two local daily newspapers in Charleston, W.Va., under the Daily Gazette Company and eliminating competition between them. Previously, the two newspapers had been separately owned and controlled, while operating under a joint operating agreement (JOA).

Under the new settlement, MediaNews Group will regain independent control over the operations of the Charleston Daily Mail and economic incentives to grow the newspaper. Additionally, the settlement requires the companies to offer substantial discounts of the Charleston Daily Mail in order to rebuild its subscriber base and prohibits the Daily Gazette Company from discriminating against the Charleston Daily Mail in circulation, advertising sales, and other key joint activities. The settlement also requires the companies to continue publishing the Charleston Daily Mail as long as it has not failed financially.

"Today's settlement resolves the department's antitrust concerns and allows readers to continue to have a choice between two independent local daily newspapers – the Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail," said Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General in charge of DOJ’s Antitrust Division.

The proposed settlement has been filed in US District Court in Charleston, WV.

Comment: One wonders if this ruling will effect ongoing complaints about similar practices in television broadcasting. -BD

Wakeup Call for Democratic Party Leadership

In case anyone is still uncertain about why pissing off rank and file union members is a bad idea, a Hart Research Associates poll conducted for the AFL-CIO found that:

49% of Massachusetts union households voted for Mr. Brown, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.

Margin by which union members voted in MA-Sen on Tuesday:

Scott Brown: 49% Martha Coakley: 46%

This wakeup call for the Democratic party leadership could not be more clear, if you want labor's support in the 2010 elections, best to get moving on EFCA and the other worker's rights issues that have been ignored by Democrats for too long. -BD

Conan, NBC Sign $45 million Dollar Exit Deal With $12 Million To Go To Staff

NBC Universal has announced the details of Conan O’Brien's , exit from “The Tonight Show”. Conan's last "Tonight" will air on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, ending a seven month run. Jay Leno, who began hosting a 10 p.m. show on NBC in September, will return to his former duties as host of "The Tonight Show".

NBC and O'Brien agreed on a $45 million deal, with Conan receiving $33 million dollars in return for a promise to stay off the broadcast TV airwaves for eight months. The $12 million dollar balance will go towards severance packages for Conan's "Tonight Show" staff. A big thank you to Conan is in order for holding out until NBC agreed to take care of his crew.

On March 1, 2010, Jay Leno will return to hosting "The Tonight Show" following NBC's Winter Olympics coverage. “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” will continue in the 12:35-1:35 a.m. slot

Jeff Gaspin, Chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment said: “We’re pleased that Jay is returning to host the franchise that he helmed brilliantly and successfully for many years. He is an enormous talent, a consummate professional and one of the hardest-working performers on television.”

Conan leaves NBC with his head up and we'll remember that he took care of his people when the chips were down. I'm sure Conan will land on his feet, and with a $33 million dollar severance, we won't have to through him a benefit any time soon. - BD

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NYS Budget Proposal Extends Film Tax Credit

By Miriam Kreinin Souccar

The item still needs approval from the State Senate and Assembly, but film executives are confident the rebate program will pass.

The New York film community is breathing a sigh of relief today.

In the 2010 budget proposal released by Gov. Paterson Tuesday, he expanded the film tax credit to $420 million a year from $350 million and extended the program through 2014. The move comes after months of intense lobbying from the film production industry, which has seen business skyrocket since the tax credits were introduced in 2004.

“It’s validation for the work all of us have done to make this program the success that it is,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria Studios, which is opening a 40,000-square-foot sound stage and support facility next month, the studio’s seventh stage. “The governor is seeing that the program makes money and creates jobs.”

Of course it’s not a done deal yet. The budget now goes through a negotiation process with the Senate and Assembly, but film executives are confident that the tax rebate program will pass, though it may be tweaked a little.

The new program comes with a number of changes. In order to qualify for the 30% credit, producers have to conduct at least ten percent of shooting days at a qualified facility; provide a notice at the end of a film or television show acknowledging financial support from New York state; and purchase property and services from registered sales tax vendors. In an effort to boost the state’s post-production industry, at least 75% of all post-production work needs to be done in New York.

Perhaps most important to production executives is the five year commitment from the state. That longevity gives TV producers the security they need to film their series here. The industry remembers all too well what happened a year ago when Fringe, a show on Fox, packed up its sets and moved to Vancouver because of uncertainty with New York’s tax credits.

At that time, the state’s 30% tax break was so successful that the $685 million allocated to fund it ran out in less than 10 months. The state ended up allocating an additional $350 million for one more year, while it grappled with the recession. Not knowing if the funding would continue after that year was too much uncertainty for a number of TV producers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tribune Sees 2009 Cash at $500 Million, Topping Prior Estimate

By Greg Bensinger
Business Week

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Tribune Co., the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, said it is likely to report 2009 operating cash flow of $500 million, that's double what Tribune had estimated coming into the year. Tribune had upgraded expectations in November, estimating end of the year cash flow at $400 million two months ago.

Improved results from the broadcast and publishing units during the fourth quarter helped boost the Chicago-based company’s cash flow, according to a memo sent to employees by Chief Executive Officer Randy Michaels and Chief Operating Officer Gerry Spector.

"We're still going through the numbers, but thanks to a stronger than expected performance by both the Broadcasting and Publishing Groups in the fourth quarter, it appears we will finish the year with close to $500 million in operating cash flow," the memo said. "Given that we started the year like most media companies, feeling as though we would be fighting for our very survival, this is truly a remarkable achievement."The two thanked employees for their hard work, and keeping expenses low -- but warned that tight times will continue: "We'll still have to keep our expenses in check and be as efficient as possible, but we're optimistic about where we're headed. It’s unclear whether these trends will continue, so we’ll have to work even faster in 2010,” Michaels and Spector said in the memo.

The company has been doing a number of things to keep expenses down, including selling 95 percent of the Chicago Cubs and the iconic Wrigley Field for about $845 million to the Ricketts family in August.

Earlier this month, the Tribune’s LA Times cut 80 jobs as it closed an Orange County printing plant. In addition, the paper said it would shrink the width of the newspaper to 44 inches from 48 inches. In November, the Tribune suspended its Associated Press news feed across its dailies to see if it could do without the wire service

Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008, one year after a group led by billionaire Sam Zell took the company private in a deal that saddled it with about $13 billion in debt. The company, also owner of the Chicago Tribune, may emerge from bankruptcy by the end of March, Zell has said.

Related Stories

President Obama, Remember Who Your Friends Are
Staff Editorial, t r u t h o u t

In the wake of a crushing Democratic defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race, we find ourselves faced with the one-year anniversary of a spirit-changing day in the history of the United States, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This odd confluence of events provides an opening for a very timely warning: It is time to remember who your friends are, Mr. President.

Your friends are not the suits on Wall Street, the same ones who fooled Timothy Geithner for years. Your friends are not the timid centrists, who Rahm Emanuel coddles. Your friends are not the giants of the mortgage industry, who fought you tooth and nail to keep the foreclosure crisis out of the courts. Your friend is not George W. Bush, whose crimes you continue to conceal.

Your friends are the progressives across this country, who, when you asked for their faith and inspired them with beautiful words, placed you on their shoulders and carried you to a historic victory.

The progressive movement needs results - we're too smart to be placated and spun. We're too cynical - and too determined - to compromise. And, soon, we'll be too jaded to believe that Democrats are anything but limp windsocks, pointing whichever way the wind blows.

Some have already walked away, according to a recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, which states that 45 percent of Democrats are not likely to vote in the 2010 election.

We know that, in your heart, you're one of us. Your heart is the element you seem to have forgotten, the element we miss. You used to wear it on your sleeve; we could hear it pounding in your chest when you spoke.

We heard your heart during your 2002 speech at a Chicago antiwar rally, when you called out the "arm-chair, weekend warriors" in Washington for keeping our soldiers engaged in a "dumb war, a rash war." We heard your heart during your 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic Convention, when you said of the American people, "They know we can do better." We heard it beating loud and clear on New Hampshire Primary Night, when you spoke of true progress, saying, "Whether we are rich or poor; black or white; Latino or Asian; whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction."

And upon your inauguration, one year ago today, we dared to believe you when you said, "The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history.

"The right wing thrives on vitriol, hate and divisiveness. When the bile they spew goes unchallenged, their disease infects the people around them. They will not lie down, Mr. President. You are going to have to put them down - with true progressive action, not the frail rhetoric of appeasement.

No one has ever proclaimed a die-hard commitment to centrism. No one has ever held a rally to support bipartisanship. Those are Washington DC catchphrases that mean nothing, serving only as a fog for professional politicians huddling together inside the beltway, too timid and too immersed in campaign logic to stand for anything.

Your job is not to get re-elected in 2012, Mr. President. Your job is to fight tomorrow and then fight the next day. If you're constantly looking up at the scoreboard, worrying about the outcome, you're going to trip over your own laces. Watch the shot clock instead, and fire up three-pointers like you know they're going to sink every time. Get in your opponents' faces and make them work for every single point.

You have a choice now, Mr. President. With your help, 2010 could usher in a host of substantive policy changes: better health care access for millions of Americans, a strategic path to peace in Iraq and Afghanistan and a resounding series of Democratic victories in the midterm elections.

However, if you stand aside and fail to challenge every shot, 2010 could give way to a fractured, crumbling Democratic Party - and the re-emergence of a vicious, feudal corporatism.Choose our better history.

Truthout's Mission

Truthout works to broaden and diversify the political discussion by introducing independent voices and focusing on undercovered issues and unconventional thinking. Harnessing the ever-expanding power of the Internet, we work to spread reliable information, peaceful thought and progressive ideas throughout the world. We are devoted to the principles of equality, democracy, human rights, accountability and social justice. We believe ardently in the power of free speech, and understand that democratic journalism can make the world a better place for all of us.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Healthcare Reform Bill "Compromises"

Hi All,

I'm sorry, but to me these health care reform bill "compromises", offered as a panacea to labor by the White House, look to me like putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound.

The "exchanges" look a lot like yet another unfunded federal mandate laid on the states, which will result in 50 different approaches ranging from great options to no option at all.

The New York Times reported that "Union officials seem pretty sure that collective bargaining units of all sizes will be included in the exchanges in 2017." I may be cynical but "pretty sure" is a hell of a weak hook to try to hang your hat on with an issue this important.

* State & municipal employees, including those not in unions, are part of the collective bargaining exemption until 2018 Okay, what happens in 2018?

* Thresholds for the excise tax are raised for both individuals and families. Thresholds went up $400 for individuals and $1,000 for families, not much to cheer about here. It would be better to have the tax be based on overall compensation, say tax benefits for those who earn over $200,000 per year.

* Dental & Vision plans do not count towards the excise tax threshold after 2015. That basically saves every American from losing their dental & vision coverage from their employer, as this is likely where companies would have first looked to save money on the coverage. Again, this is true for everyone, not just union members. Okay, but, vision and dental are insurance extras that are not very large components of medical plans and many employers don't even include them, yet another band-aid in my opinion.

*"Starting in 2017, employees covered by collective bargaining agreements at all levels will be able to participate in the exchanges." That's all well and good, but if the burden for setting up and running the exchanges is put on the states this will create chaos, with 50 different deals.

We need to take a much harder line here. We need a well defined, national public option if there is going to be a tax on employer plans. Otherwise, all we've done is shifted much of the financial liability for health care from corporate employers to working Americans.

If we don't hold our Democratic Party leaders' feet to the fire on the health care bill and follow up with a hard line on labor law reform, including making sure EFCA is passed asap, we will be dealing with a lot more Republicans after the next election.

Bob D

Monday, January 18, 2010

As Shrinking Newsrooms Use Upstarts’ Content, Vetting Questions Arise

The New York Times

News comes from more and more outlets, about which readers know less and less. Publishers and broadcasters have always called on freelance journalists. But a generation ago, if they used material from another organization, it was usually limited to a handful of large, well-known and respected ones like The Associated Press or Reuters. With established newsrooms shrinking, a raft of smaller news outlets have cropped up in the last few years, selling or simply giving news reports to the traditional media — groups like ProPublica, Global Post, Politico and Kaiser Health News.

“There are more pressures than ever to acquire content from outside sources, and there are going to be even more going forward,” said Alan D. Mutter, a media consultant and former newspaper editor who blogs about the news business. That means that despite declining resources, newsrooms, he said, “have to get better at due diligence in terms of who this provider is,” and at explaining it to their audiences.

Some of these issues came to a head recently, when The Washington Post published an article from a newly formed news organization, The Fiscal Times, about the debate over federal spending without disclosing that the group’s financial backer is Peter G. Peterson, who has an abiding interest in the issue and ties to experts cited in the article. The Post later acknowledged that it should have disclosed the connections, and its ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, found fault with the article — though not with the underlying relationship with The Fiscal Times.

But there have been more extreme lapses, including television news programs’ broadcasting so-called reports that were produced by outsiders on one side of a particular issue.
In the best-known case, in 2004, the Bush administration produced a video that looked like a news report in support of its proposed changes to Medicare, and dozens of stations around the country included it in their newscasts.

Several media analysts and executives said they do not yet see this outsourcing of articles in newspapers as producing anything like that kind of lapse — the major content suppliers are staffed by experienced journalists and so far have a good track record — but the risk is real. Inevitably, they said, there will be groups or individuals with particular slants offering to fill the reporting gaps for traditional news organizations — and the more of them there are, the harder it will be to perceive their agendas.

“There are going to be some newsrooms, I can guarantee you, they’re going to get garbage and they’re going to print it,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists in St. Petersburg, Fla.

For consumers, it becomes that much harder to gauge the credibility of reporting, “and it’s not as clear what the agendas are,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, former editor of The Chicago Tribune. “There has to be total transparency.”

(The New York Times has printed the work of ProPublica and the Chicago News Cooperative, another new organization, and it recently put one of its neighborhood blogs, covering parts of Brooklyn, in the hands of the staff and students of the Graduate School of Journalism of the City University of New York.)

Experts say that when many people have a hand in financing and running a news outlet, there is less danger of an agenda creeping into coverage than when there is a single dominant supporter or owner, like Mr. Peterson. Both Mr. Peterson and The Fiscal Times say that he has no involvement in the group’s journalistic work.

Similar questions have been raised, though not as pointedly, about the Allbritton family, owners of Politico, and Herbert and Marion Sandler, who gave the bulk of the money supporting ProPublica.

What no one can predict is whether the coming years will produce a rush by wealthy individuals or groups to create their own newsrooms — with or without specific biases — to reach consumers either directly or by placing their work with publishers and broadcasters.

But none of the risks posed by outsourcing is entirely new. As for using less-than-objective work from outside sources, “there are a lot of newspapers that essentially take press releases and put them in the paper,” Mr. Mutter said.

For generations, owners who have little or no need to answer to shareholders have famously used their newspapers to pursue their political aims — most famously, the early 20th-century press barons like William Randolph Hearst, Robert R. McCormick and Harrison Gray Otis. In fact, more diffuse corporate ownership did not become the norm until the late 20th century.
“We went through a corporate era, and with more media fragmentation, maybe we’re going back to a stage when individual owners are really more in charge,” said Philip S. Balboni, president and chief executive of Global Post.

For an established news organization, “there is, of course, a greater danger when you outsource than when it is fully within your control,” he said, and it will become more important than ever “to be very careful about who you use and to monitor the content that you use.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 18, 2010, on page B6 of the New York edition of The New York Times.

Special Interests Write 'News' (Miami Herald)Ed Wasserman: More and more journalism is being produced by people who are financially dependent on shadowy offstage entities. The result is a potent new challenge to traditional safeguards against conflict of interest, which, it's becoming increasingly obvious, are either too weak, too harsh or flat-out misdirected.
Issues of Background Sourcing Come Up in Game Change (WaPo)Howard Kurtz: The technique in Game Change -- omniscient narrative -- is hardly new, and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are veteran scribes who have known their political sources for years. But didn't they have a responsibility to ask the former candidates for comment?
From: ""

A Labor Breakfast Forum

"Working Without Laws: Employment and Labor Law Violations in New York City"

Friday January 29th, 2010

8:30am to 10:15am at

The CUNY Murphy Institute

25 West 43rd Street, 18th Floor, NYC

Friday, January 15, 2010

Updated: Labor Leaders Describe Excise-Tax Deal

Updated: Labor Leaders Describe Excise-Tax Deal

Facing intense pressure from organized labor, the Obama administration has agreed to major changes in the proposed tax on high-priced employer-sponsored health benefits.

One change, according to labor leaders involved in the negotiations, is that workers covered by collective bargaining agreements, as well as state and local employees, will be exempted from the tax until 2018.

“We tried to figure out how to have a health plan that was accessible and affordable and that made a difference for working families in this country,” said Anna Burger, chairwoman of the Change to Win labor coalition. The new compromises, she added, help to “make sure that workers who have good health care will be able to continue having good health care” without having their costs or taxes raised.

Richard L. Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, also provided additional details in a conference call with reporters this afternoon:

The Senate bill would have imposed a 40 percent tax on the amount of policies for individuals above $8,500 and family plans above $23,000. The new threshold for the tax would be $24,000 for families and $8,900 for individuals.

The threshold would be increased each year by the amount of the rise in the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent — that’s the same rate of indexation called for in the Senate bill.

The formula will be adjusted for inflation from 2010 to 2013. The initial inflation threshold period will be adjusted upward if inflation increases above current assumptions.

For high risk professions, the threshold would increase to $27,000.

There would also be adjustments creating higher thresholds for employee groups whose health premiums are higher because the groups contain a disproportionate percentage of older workers and women. Those two groups tends to have higher health premiums than other workers. There would also be adjustments for those living in high-cost states.

As of 2015, dental and vision costs would not be counted toward the threshold.

Collective bargaining plans were to have been excluded from the exchange.

Starting in 2017, collective bargaining agreements at all levels will be able to participate in the exchanges.

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the excise tax, as included in the Senate bill, would raise $149 billion over 10 years. Mr. Trumka estimated that the new changes would reduce that figure by about $60 billion.

“We’re hoping all the cost containment in [the bill] will start to ratchet down on health care costs,” said Mr. Trumka. “If it does that, then hopefully no American will bump up against the excise tax.”

According to Mr. Trumka, administration officials reached the agreement with labor leaders early Thursday morning after 15 consecutive hours of talks in the Executive Office Building.

By exempting labor unions from the tax until 2018, the administration could greatly reduce resistance to the tax from an important part of the Democratic base.

Unions asked for a delay in being covered by the tax so that they would have time to negotiate for their workers to achieve health savings and have cheaper health plans before 2018.

“This is good for all working Americans, not just union people,” said Mr. Trumka of the proposed changes. “This makes this bill more fair for them. The labor movement has been fighting for health reform for 60 years. We’re not about to let the naysayers stop us from getting there.”

“The president and his entire staff has worked with us on this,” he added. “He’s proven to be a friend of working people on this. I believe in the election of 2010 and 2012, we will be able to motivate not just our members but working people, because this bill will bring health care to working people and bring costs down.”

One of the biggest differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation is how they would pay for the nearly $1 trillion, 10-year cost. The excise tax is the biggest new revenue-raiser in the Senate bill. The House bill would impose an income surtax on individuals earning more than $500,000 and couples earning more than $1 million.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, said on Thursday that the final version of major health care legislation will be posted on the Internet for 72 hours before the House votes on the measure.

Thanks to the Internet, the public has had the opportunity to get a detailed look at the health care legislation throughout the legislative process. Of course, having access to the legislative text and being able to make sense of it are two different issues.

White House and Congressional leaders are trying to negotiate the final differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. An overall deal could come together within the next few days.

Doomed Deals Spark Tug-of-Wars Between Creditors: Ann Woolner

Commentary by Ann Woolner, Bloomberg - Business Week

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Those who years ago bought Tribune Co. bonds now are hurling nasty claims at the so-deserving Sam Zell, the real estate magnate whose takeover loaded the storied newspaper company with so much debt that it fell into bankruptcy.

Longtime bondholders accuse Zell of borrowing more than the company was worth to make the deal, thus jeopardizing their stakes in what had been until then a solvent company.

The resulting leveraged buyout “was a virtually no-money- down LBO,” as bondholder attorney David Rosner said in court last month.

We know from the mortgage meltdown the danger of no-money- down loans.

So now Tribune bondholders are pitted against the banks and hedge funds that enabled the doomed deal by loaning the money. The question is who gets what ownership interest in the company when it comes out of bankruptcy.

As with the multitude of Ponzi schemes hidden during good times and exposed by the recession, so it is with leveraged buyouts. When the market and the economy were bubbling up, no price seemed reckless.

Now it falls to bankruptcy judges to sort out the rubble. Tribune Co. isn’t the only bankruptcy case prompting accusations of so-called fraudulent transfer. That is bankruptcy slang used when an insolvent company gives away more than it gets in return, or when that sort of fiscal carelessness drives the company into insolvency.

Leveraged Takeovers

At least three other companies went through heavily leveraged takeovers that seemed to have helped land them in bankruptcy court and left previously confident creditors fighting with newcomer lenders. Bondholders aren’t the least bit happy.

A Florida bankruptcy judge in October declared homebuilder Tousa Inc. fraudulently transferred assets when it bailed out an affiliate six months before filing for reorganization. The creditors’ committee has sued Tousa’s directors over it.

In Nevada, creditors for casino operator Station Casinos Inc. are asking a judge to let it sue directors, alleging the company’s 2007 leveraged buyout left it with $1.7 billion in new debt that catapulted the casino operator into bankruptcy.

Likewise, creditors are suing in Manhattan over the 2007 leveraged buyout of Houston-based Lyondell Chemical Co., claiming that was partly a fraudulent transfer, too.

Debt-Ridden Unit

When entrepreneur Leonid Blavatnik used a debt-ridden unit of his Access Industries Holdings LLC to buy the chemical producer, “Every dollar of the $22 billion used to acquire Lyondell was borrowed money,” the creditors committee said in court papers.

Within a year, the merged company was in bankruptcy court. Lyondell’s creditors are suing the major banks and hedge funds that put the deal together.

Of all those deals gone bad, the one that grabs my gut is that of the Tribune Co. I’m a journalist with a deep need and soft heart for newspapers. I fret daily about what will become of them and the rest of us if they fail.

Newspapers were in sufficient trouble without Zell coming along and pulling down some of the country’s best-known papers, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun, all owned by Tribune.

Now the company, which also owns a score of broadcast outlets, might actually make money if it could ever get out of bankruptcy court and settle its debts.

Rightful Demand

What is holding up reorganization is the bondholders’ rightful demand for an independent investigation of the buyout. They have asked the bankruptcy judge to appoint an examiner to look into their claims of fraudulent transfer.

If the bondholders prove the LBO was a fraudulent transfer of assets, board members could be held liable for approving it. The banks that made the defective loans could lose their security interests and their claims against the operating companies, which amount to billions of dollars.

They can’t blame Tribune’s problems on the sudden crash of the economy. That the deal was doomed from the start wasn’t only entirely predictable, it was widely predicted.

Zell, who once called himself a “grave dancer” for happily jumping into companies others found moribund, told the Associated Press in 2007 that he was obviously more optimistic about newspapers than others. At the time he was putting together the Tribune deal as revenue was dropping.

‘Human Wrecking Ball’

Since then, he has been called a “human wrecking ball” for the toll his cost-cutting wreaked on his debt-laden newspapers. So said a Los Angeles-based columnist in a Washington Post op-ed piece.

Asked this week on CNBC when his company will come out of bankruptcy, Zell called it “reasonable to assume that it will come out probably in the first half of this year.” It could happen within the first quarter if negotiations with creditors “go easier.”

At the moment, they aren’t going easy. If his enablers in the merger would acknowledge the debt they owe to the bondholders who preceded them, then things might go a little smoother.
Click on “Send Comment” in sidebar display to send a letter to the editor.

--With assistance from Bill Rochelle in New York. Editors: Jim Rubin, Steven Gittelson.
To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at +1-404-507-1314 or

To contact the editor responsible for this column: James Greiff at +1-212-617-5801 or

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Online College Planned for Union Workers

The New York Times

The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the main umbrella group for the nation’s labor unions, announced on Thursday that it was joining with the National Labor College and the Princeton Review to create an online college for the federation’s 11.5 million members and their families.
The new college, tentatively named the College for Working Families, will seek to “expand job opportunities for its members by providing education and retraining in a way that’s affordable and accessible,” the founders said.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who chairs the National Labor College Board of Trustees, also announced the selection of The Princeton Review Inc. and its subsidiary, Penn Foster Education Group, as the college’s partners to create the College for Working Families.

"Expanding good jobs is a top priority for the AFL-CIO and to achieve this, workers’ skills and knowledge must match the role of employers in a changing job market. This new online education venture demonstrates our strong commitment to playing a significant role in ensuring that quality education for America’s workers and their families remains affordable and accessible."

The college will be the first and only accredited degree-granting online institution devoted exclusively to educating union members. It plans to begin offering courses this fall, including ones on criminal justice, education, business and allied health sciences.

“We’re working on a survey to send out to the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s members to find out what they’d be interested in,” said William Scheuerman, president of the National Labor College, a 41-year-old college for union members based in Silver Spring, Md.

He said the online college would charge $100 to $150 a credit, competitive with community colleges and far cheaper than most four-year colleges and for-profit schools.

Mr. Scheuerman said the labor college selected the Princeton Review and its Penn Foster subsidiary as partners because of their expertise in distance learning.

In 1890, Penn Foster, based in Scranton, Pa., first provided correspondence courses by mail on safety to coal miners. Penn Foster provides online courses to 220,000 students, and a large part of its operations are unionized.

Michael Perik, president of the Princeton Review, said the College for Working Families would emphasize remedial learning and retention far more than for-profit online colleges do.

“We enter this venture with the strong belief that not enough attention has been paid to student remediation and retention,” Mr. Perik said. “If you’re a 30-year-old worker who is going back to school, you might have to relearn a number of high school-type programs. If you’re going to succeed in an allied health care job, you might need to relearn some of your middle school mathematics to succeed.”

He said the A.F.L.-C.I.O. wanted to focus on student retention. “If have you have a two-year program and can keep students through the first six months, the difference in terms of their likelihood to succeed is exponential,” Mr. Perik said.

Mr. Scheuerman said workers whose labor unions were not in the A.F.L.-C.I.O., like members of the Teamsters and service employees’ unions, could also take courses in the new college. He said they would probably have to pay a premium above what A.F.L.-C.I.O. members pay.

Mr. Scheuerman said the online college would first offer bachelor’s degrees and would ultimately also offer associate’s and master’s degrees.

Established as a training center by the AFL-CIO in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills, the National Labor College is the nation’s only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union members, leaders and staff.

The NLC became a degree-granting college in 1997 and in March 2004 gained accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

With a 47-acre campus located in Silver Spring, Maryland, a new 72,000 square-foot state- of-the-art academic and conference center, and hotel quality residence halls, the College is well equipped to provide the classroom, meeting spaces and superb dining services, which have become our trademark. And the College has been the venue for an increasing number of national and international conferences on organizing, labor rights, civil rights, health care and pension benefits among other areas.

The NLC is also the home of the ”National Workers Memorial” erected on campus to honor the memory of workers killed or fatally injured on the job, or in service to the labor movement.
Since its founding, more than 200,000 union officers and members have taken one or more of our union skills courses and over 1,100 BA degrees in labor studies have been granted.

Recipients include international union presidents and officers, local union officials and stewards and workers from virtually every national and international union.

National Labor College
Academic Services
10000 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20903
Phone: (301) 431-6400
Fax: (301) 628-0160 Toll Free: 1-800-462-4237 Newspaper Guild Employees Claim Win in Labor Case

-By Lucia Moses
Media Week

An arbitrator has ordered Time Inc. to honor an earlier agreement that employees covered by The Newspaper Guild of New York shall not be forced to work for the company’s Web sites, according to the Guild.

The Guild had accused People of violating a 2007 agreement with the publishing giant stating that work for the Web sites be voluntary. The agreement also called for Guild employees’ workload to be adjusted accordingly if they worked for the Web sites.

The case centered on People’s L.A. bureau, which has about 20 Guild-covered staffers. The union believed conditions were the worst there. In a split decision, the arbitrator ruled that staffers, who aren’t paid overtime, can’t be compensated for extra time they put into the Web site.

Local Guild representative Bob Townsend said he was “thrilled” with the ruling, even though staffers wouldn’t be awarded back pay. “I think it’s very clear now that the staff knows the ground rules and that management knows that they’re going to have to follow the ground rules,” he said.

This all came about after editors at Time Inc.-owned Fortune and Time told their staffs that they would be required to work for the dot-com operations, and that part of their compensation would be based on that work.

The argument started in September 2008 when a People staff member e-mailed management asking whether dot-com work was mandatory. Management said yes, then wrote back again:"They're not mandatory, per se, but they're not optional either."

The guild representing Time Inc. staffers filed a complaint, covered in November 2009, citing not just increased responsibilities but increased workload as a reason why having staffers double-dip is a problem.

As of today, the dot-com work at People et al is voluntary.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Time to Re-think the Senate's Health Care Reform Bill

Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Erica Werner reported today that
there has been an outpouring of complaints from labor leaders angry over President Barack Obama's support for a tax on high-cost health insurance plans. The 40 percent levy would fall on employer health plans worth more than $8,500 for an individual or $23,000 for a family.

Zalvador and Werner reported that while President Obama terms the high-cost health insurance plans "Cadillac" plans, union leaders say many working-class Americans who have negotiated good benefits in exchange for lesser pay would be hurt.

The "Cadillac" tax is a cornerstone of the Senate bill's approach to controlling costs. Government analysts estimate the pain could be widely felt, with the tax hitting 22 percent of insured workers in 2019.

The idea is to nudge people into equally comprehensive, but cheaper, coverage. The problem is that, with no public option available in the Senate's version of the health care reform bill, the only choice for coverage will be State sponsored purchasing pools, but there is concern that states governed by Republicans may opt not to create them and some Democratic states may have trouble meeting yet another unfunded federal mandate.

The insurance industry supports the Senate approach.

If this version passes, employees will be angry because many gave up wage increases for employer sponsored health insurance that is now taxable.

Many healthy employees will opt out of the taxable employer plans and may or may not be able to get coverage from "purchasing pools", which their State may or may not choose to set up.

Many of the employees that remain in the employer sponsored health plans will be those with medical concerns. This creates what insurance companies call "adverse selection", which will cause the insurance companies to raise premiums substantially, forcing many employers to drop their health plans altogether.

AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka warned "disillusioned union members might just not show up to vote if they fail to come up with a health bill labor likes". Trumka said labor groups prefer the approach in the House bill, which raises income taxes on the wealthy to pay for expanded health insurance coverage.

Harold A. Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters, commented "The president's support for the excise tax is a huge disappointment and cannot be ignored," he said in a statement. "If President Obama continues to support it and signs a bill that includes the excise tax on workers, we will hold him accountable."

Passing the Senate version of the bill will not only offend the union members and other progressive Democrats, but will anger the vast majority of working Democrats. Disappointed Democrats will just stay home on election day, causing catastrophic election defeats for Democratic party candidates similar to those in the 1994 elections.

President Obama and the Democratic Party leadership need to re-think this legislation and come up with a health care reform plan that does not add to the already substantial tax burden of working Americans, expands comprehensive health coverage to all Americans, and curbs the power of the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies. This is a huge, complicated challenge. The Democratic Party and the American people will be better served if we take the time to do it right. - BD

January 12, 2010: Clusterf#@k to the Poor House - Wall Street Bonuses

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Clusterf#@k to the Poor House - Wall Street Bonuses
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Companies that American taxpayers had to bail out with billions of dollars use that money to reward their employees with bonuses.