Saturday, February 11, 2012

NABET-CWA Members Ratify NBCU Contract



Washington, DC


February 10, 2012

The NABET-CWA Network Negotiating Committee has tabulated the votes for the NBC Universal ratification balloting concerning the Company's January 10, 2012 Master Agreement contract offer. Eligible NABET-CWA members employed at NBCU have ratified this contract offer by an overwhelming majority.

The Union's Bargaining Committee expresses their gratitude to the NABET-CWA members working across the country at NBC Universal, for their continued mobilization support and perseverance during this process.

The previous Master Agreement at NBC Universal expired on March 31, 2009. The new ratified agreement covers broadcast technicians, news-writers, building, air conditioning and plant maintenance personnel, staging services personnel, and couriers at various Company Network and TV station operations in New York, Chicago, Burbank and Washington D.C.

Most of the terms and conditions of the new agreement go into effect immediately, unless otherwise stated in any individual proposal contained in the January 10, 2012 contract offer. 

Some economic provisions such as penalty payment increases will go into effect tomorrow, which is the beginning of the next full payroll period at NBC Universal. Payment of the ratification bonuses will be made by the end of February. 

Additionally, the first annual wage increase of 2.75% goes into effect starting April 7, 2012, which is the beginning of the first full payroll period after April 1, 2012.

In the meantime, your Union Bargaining Committee reminds you to ignore all rumors. Further information about these new terms and conditions of the Master Agreement, including copies of the complete new contract, will be provided as soon as these items are available.

In Solidarity,

NABET-CWA Network Negotiating Committee

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bob Daraio joins the TNG-CWA Mobilization Team

Robert Daraio
Robert Daraio is the new mobilization consultant for the New York Newspaper Guild of the Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA) Local 31003. Bob will be working on the contract campaign for the TNG represented employees at the New York Times.

Bob Daraio is currently the recording secretary for the New York Broadcast Trades Council (NYBTC) and moderator of the Broadcast Union News website.

Bob is the NABET-CWA Local 16 delegate to the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO (NYCCLC). This is Bob's return to the NYCCLC, having previously represented NABET Local 15 and then IATSE Local 644 at this body.

A BFA graduate of the first four-year class in Theatre Technology at SUNY Purchase, Bob earned an MA in Labor Studies at the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, graduating in June 2011.

Bob has served on the Executive Boards of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) Local 15, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 644, and was a shop steward and negotiation committee member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1212 at WPIX. Bob is one of a select few who have held elective office in all three of New York’s film, television, and theatrical technical employee unions. 

Bob joined WPIX as a video engineer on June 1, 1999 and remained with the company through May 2010. This was Bob’s first staff position following a 22-year career as a freelance camera, robotics, video, audio, and videotape technician. His news, sports, and entertainment clients include ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX5, TBS, WWOR, WPIX, WNET, MSG, CNN, HBO, Showtime, MTV, VH1, CTW, NEP, Unitel, MTI, ESPN, and the National Geographic Society.

In 2002 the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored Bob for his video and robotic camera work on the Emmy Award winning “The WB11 News at 10”. Bob has been a video controller and digital imaging technician for hundreds of television commercials. His feature film credits include the Rosie Perez and Pattie Lupone independent film "24-Hour Woman" and "For Love of the Game" with Kevin Costner for Universal Pictures.

Bob is proud to be an IATSE Local One stagehand. His Broadway credits include "She Loves Me" and "Company".

IATSE Local One, along with NABET-CWA Local 16, IBEW Local 1212, and the Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body, endorsed Bob's successful campaign for election to the Board of Trustees in the Village of Ossining, New York.

Bob is a Trustee and Police Commissioner for the Village of Ossining, New York, where he lives with his wife Gayle Palmieri, an IATSE Local 764 member currently on the Broadway wardrobe crew of “Sister Act”.

Defending Workers Against Discipline

By Robert Schwartz
Labor Notes Editor's note: The author is working on a new handbook on defending workers against discipline. Here are some excerpts.

Forced Resignation

Q. Can we submit a grievance for a nurse’s aide who resigned from work after her supervisor falsely accused her of patient abuse, threatened to discharge her, and suggested that she quit?

A. Yes. Under a theory called “constructive discharge,” a resignation extracted by duress or coercion is considered equivalent to a discharge.

Retracting a Resignation

Q. When a supervisor demoted a worker, the worker lost it and declared, “If that’s how you feel about me, I quit.” That night she called the union and said she had made a big mistake. Management says a quit is a quit. Can we grieve under the just cause standard?

A. Yes. An employee who quits her position because of emotional stress can retract the resignation if she gives prompt notice by telephone, fax, or email and if the employer will suffer no significant harm by permitting the employee to return.

Applying Rules Off-Duty

Q. Does a work rule prohibiting the use, sale, or possession of controlled drugs apply when an employee is off-duty?

A. Generally, no. Company rules do not apply to off-duty conduct unless expressly stated. Even if the rule says it applies off-duty, the union can challenge the rule as unreasonable if the prohibited conduct does not have a demonstrably adverse impact on the workplace.

Drug Test

Q. A worker failed a drug test. Can the employer fire him without an interview?

A. No. Under due process principles, the employer must give the employee a chance to explain why he was taking the banned substance and why he should not be punished.

Double Jeopardy

Q. An employee threatened another worker. Two hours later, his supervisor said, “If you do that again, you will be in a bag of trouble.” The next day, human relations called the worker in and suspended him for a week. Can we defend on the grounds of double jeopardy?

A. Yes. A worker cannot be disciplined twice for the same conduct. The first notice was a verbal reprimand. The worker viewed it as final and continued working. The matter should have ended there.

Anonymous Complaint

Q. Personnel fired a driver after an anonymous customer sent a letter containing graphic descriptions of sexual misconduct. Do we have a chance at arbitration?

A. Yes. An employer cannot justify a discharge solely on the basis of hearsay. If the driver consistently denies the charges, and the complainant does not appear to testify, an arbitrator is likely to order reinstatement.

Snake in the Truck

Q. A driver drove his truck into a guard rail. He claimed he saw a large snake on the passenger seat and grabbed it with both hands to avoid being bitten. Impossible case?

A. No. When a discharge is based on circumstantial evidence (no witnesses), the evidence must eliminate reasonable explanations advanced by the employee. If the driver gave the snake explanation from the get-go, and stayed with it consistently, he should prevail at arbitration.

Lie Detector Test

Q. An employee suspected of theft declined to take a polygraph test. Can the employer cite her refusal as evidence of guilt?

A. No. Arbitrators disfavor polygraph tests. They almost never hold refusals against employees.

Disparate Treatment

Q. The company discharged a five-year worker for sleeping on the job. Two years ago, a worker with 20 years’ seniority was given a one-day suspension for the same offense. Does the difference in service time justify the difference in penalties?

A. No. Differences in seniority do not justify wide divergences in penalties.

Dog Ate It

Q. Management says it lost the paperwork that explains why it issued a lenient penalty two years ago. Is this sufficient to avoid a finding of disparate treatment?

A. No. An employer cannot escape a finding of disparate treatment by asserting that paperwork has been lost or misplaced.

Pick Your Poison

Q. The company fired a worker who was seen smoking marijuana in her car. Six months earlier a worker who drank beer on the job was given a five-day suspension. Isn’t this disparate treatment?

A. Yes. There is no acceptable basis for imposing substantially harsher penalties on employees who commit drug offenses than on employees who commit similar alcohol offenses.

Erasing Disparate Treatment

Q. If an employer suspends an employee for sleeping on the job, is it barred from firing future offenders?

A. No. An employer can erase past leniency by making a clear and unequivocal announcement to the workforce that it intends to discharge employees for all such offenses in the future.

Progressive Discipline

Q. Our contract has a four-step progressive discipline policy. An employee with 20 years’ service committed four offenses and was discharged. But in an earlier case, management gave a 22-year worker with four offenses another chance. Can we raise disparate treatment?

A. Yes. The employer surrendered its right to insist on a lockstep application of the progressive discipline provision. If mitigating circumstances are considered for one employee, they must be considered for all.

Zero Tolerance

Q. The company manual says any violations of safety policies “shall result in termination.” Is this penalty binding in arbitration?

A. No. Arbitrators frequently rule that zero-tolerance policies are trumped by contractual just-cause clauses.

Robert Schwartz is the author of several labor law handbooks published by Work Rights Press and available from Labor Notes, including The Legal Rights of Union Stewards.

About Labor Notes

Labor Notes is a media and organizing project that has been the voice of union activists who want to put the movement back in the labor movement since 1979.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

SAG-AFTRA Merger Documents Now Available

AFTRA-SAG merger referendum ballots are scheduled to be mailed on or about February 27 – but members of both unions now have access to the complete merger documents online. Full printed merger documents will also be mailed to each voter with the referendum ballot, which will be due for return on March 30. This will give each member ample time to make a thoughtful and well-informed decision.  Please click the below links to view the SAG-AFTRA Merger Agreement, SAG-AFTRA Constitution and the Pension & Health / Health & Retirement Feasibility Report.

The SAG and AFTRA National Boards took a decisive step to strengthen our future by overwhelmingly endorsing a plan to merge Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. If members approve the merger, the new union will be called SAG-AFTRA.

The vote of the unions’ National Boards came after more than a year of focused effort to hear from members about their needs for stronger union representation and to develop a merger plan to meet those needs. With the enthusiastic approval of our boards, the decision now rests in the hands of AFTRA and SAG members.

Merger referendum ballots are scheduled to be mailed on or about February 27th – but all members of both unions will have access to the complete merger documents within the next couple of days on the SAG and AFTRA websites. Full printed merger documents will also be mailed to each voter with the referendum ballot, which will be due for return on March 30th. This will give each member ample time to make a thoughtful and well-informed decision.

We’re also excited to announce that on Friday, February 3rd, we will launch a new joint website to provide members all the information they’ll want to consider before casting their votes. The website will include complete merger details, FAQs, and a comprehensive calendar of events to alert members nationwide to informational meetings and other opportunities for learning about the plan. Watch your email later this week for details of the website launch.

After more than a year of intensive work, we are extremely proud to bring you this historic opportunity. We also want to acknowledge the ceaseless dedication of the AFTRA and SAG members and staff who came together as the Group for One Union (G1) to produce this remarkable plan. We look forward to sharing all the details and answering any questions you may have. Finally, we are confident that SAG and AFTRA members will embrace this singular chance to harness the true power of unity, and that SAG-AFTRA will protect members and shape the entertainment and media industries for decades to come.

In unity,

Ken Howard
SAG National President

Roberta Reardon
AFTRA National President

Friday, February 3, 2012

Class War at the Gray Lady? New York Times Gives Millions to CEO While Pushing Concessions on Union

By Mike Elk 
The New York Times has long been held up as journalism's standard bearer. Thus it seems only fitting that The New York Times Company gave departing CEO Janet Robinson a nearly $15 million severance package while demanding that its current employees take benefit and pay cuts. (Robinson gained early and immediate access to her full pension of $10.9 million, and will earn $4.5 million working as a consultant for the company in 2012.)

images added by Broadcast Union News
At big companies throughout the media industry (like the Tribune Co.), high salaries and large bonuses for those at the top and pay freezes or concessions for those at the bottom have become standard. Of course, it's indisputable that the journalism industry has been in a crunch for years, with layoffs at newspapers around the country, including the New York Times.

But after implementing a pay wall and making other cost-saving changes in 2011, the Times is now pushing a contract on its workers that asks the union to accept an inferior health care plan, eliminates extra pay for working late nights or changing one’s schedule to deal with major breaking stories, and would implement a freeze on contributions to employee pensions. The Times claims the contract would save it $9 million a year.

Still, according to Newspaper Guild of New York President Bill O’Meara, the freeze on contribution to employees' pensions is offensive to Times union members in part because of the million-dollar package given to Robinson. 

In a sign of The New York Times Company's intent on freezing pensions, the newspaper unilaterally froze pensions for all foreign employees not covered by the Times' bargaining unit.

This sparked outrage from unionized employees who penned an open letter to the New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. on December 23, saying:
Our foreign citizen employees in overseas bureaus have just had their pensions frozen with only a week’s warning. Some of these people have risked their lives so that we can do our jobs. A couple have even lost them. Many have spent their entire careers at the Times -- indeed, some have letters from your father explaining the pension system -- and deserve better treatment.….
We have worked long and hard for this company and have given up pay to keep it solvent. Some of us have risked our lives for it. You have eloquently recognized and paid moving tribute to our work and devotion. The deep disconnect between those words and the demands of your negotiators have given rise to a sense of betrayal.
Steven Greenhouse
The open letter was signed by 546 workers, including veteran Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse. The New York Times Company did not respond to request for comment for this story.

Writing earlier this year in an article titled “Why Not Occupy the Newsroom”, New York Times media columnist David Carr wrote on the seething inequality between top managers in the news industry and workers:

David Carr
The optics of the bonuses are far worse than the practical impact. Newspapers are asking their employees for shared sacrifice and their digital readers to begin paying. So, lucrative packages won’t cut it. As newspapers all over the country struggle to divine the meaning of the Occupy protests, some of the companies that own them might want to listen closely to see if there is a message there meant for them.
David Carr did not sign onto the letter to Sulzberger Jr., but he did tweet out a link to the letter and later commented on Twitter that “My thinking was that as someone who covers NYT occasionally, I should not take a position.”

But clearly, Carr’s point about inequality in the newspaper industry applies to The New York Times.  For now, New York Newspaper Guild President Bill O’Meara says workers at the Times are continuing to organize against the company's proposed contract concessions.

The New York Times Goes All In With The "1 Percenters"

Kyle Smith
Kyle Smith, Contributor

It’s a classic American saga of top hats against hard hats, lions versus sheep, the one percenters and the forgotten 99. It’s a story about fundamental unfairness, corporate excess, and naked greed. There are exploited workers seething in revolt and spoiled plutocrats floating along on clouds of happy oblivion.

Somebody get The New York Times on the story. Wait a second – The New York Times is the story. So never mind.

Image added by Broadcast Union News
New York Times employees plan an “urgent” Jan. 9 meeting to discuss their next move because its staff are incensed by the $15 million (Now estimated at $21 Million as of Feb 1, 2012) failure bonus given to outgoing CEO Janet Robinson. Robinson, whose disastrous tenure coincided with a drop in the parent company’s stock price from $40 to less than $8 in seven years, is getting $4.5 million to serve as a “consultant” this year (so the company can avail itself of 12 more months of that storied leadership).

Plus she gets, ahead of schedule, immediate access to a $10.9 million pension (though she is only 61). Her sudden resignation/ouster/defenestration, announced last month, came just three months after Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici said she conducted “what felt rather like a victory lap” to boast of her digital strategy. Third-quarter ad revenue sagged by 8.8 percent.

Meanwhile, according to the president of the Newspaper Guild, the paper is hectoring the workers with demands for concessions. These include pension freezes, savings in the health plan and curtailing bonuses for working late nights or rearranging schedules to deal with unexpected news events. All this would save the company about $9 million this year, or roughly two-thirds of the amount it is paying to a single non-employee: Janet Robinson.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
An open letter to Times chieftain Arthur Sulzberger Jr. quickly drew more than 500 signatures, many of them familiar bylines from the paper. Wrote one employee, “The disconnect between the praise lavished upon us and the dismissive treatment we have experienced in negotiations has reached grotesque proportions.”

Somehow the Newspaper of Record has missed this hot developing story, limiting its coverage to the closing lines of a blog post, but then again this is the paper that ignored or was unaware of the 2009 controversy that would force the resignation of avowed communist and 9/11 truther Van Jones as White House “green jobs czar.” (The paper’s editors said it was “understaffed” before a Labor Day weekend when there were nonetheless enough warm bodies to produce a 500-word story on a semi-clothed Times Square panhandler called the Naked Cowboy, who announced he was not running for mayor.)

The uproar within The Times is exactly the sort of development it has breathlessly covered when it’s labeled the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has so obsessed its staff that its classical-music critic recently wrote, “As I listened to these students sing, I thought about the issues of economic inequality that the Occupy Wall Street protesters have moved to the center of political discourse.”

Janet Robinson former NY Times CEO
When a failed CEO receives a $15 million golden parachute at the exact moment when Times foreign correspondents who put their lives on the line covering war are having their pensions frozen, isn’t it worthy of comment? And what of the moral implications of a company that extracts ever more concessions from its unions while holding executives to no apparent standard? “I feel that the gap between what Janet Robinson will be leaving with, and what we are being offered, is simply wrong,” wrote the paper’s domestic correspondent Tamar Lewin in a collection of open letters to management.

Shouldn’t proletarian warrior Paul Krugman (whose name at this writing is conspicuously absent from the workers’ petition, weigh in on the injustice? A few weeks ago Krugman wrote, “Wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.” 

As the 1,200-head Times newsroom staff prepares for more job cuts while Robinson draws a lavish fee for nebulous consulting efforts, doesn’t the Times system seem as rigged as any? Yet the wealthy Americans who run the New York Times simply aren’t interested in publishing any stories about the dispute they’re having with their own worker bees. Maybe we’ll read about the quarrel in the Occupy Wall Street Journal.

Times management will, of course, win this and every other dispute with its employees, who two years ago accepted a five percent pay cut. Unlike mere corporate drones, the priests and priestesses of the Times are fanatics who willingly serve in a holy cause. Company executives could announce a new salary policy in which reporters and commentators pay for the right to work for the paper, and the end product would look about the same.

Consider, for instance, this posting by video journalist Gabe Johnson: “The Times is compensating an executive at the expense of the rank and file, the very behavior that we criticize in our editorial pages. I am confident, nevertheless, that we can all find a way out of this struggle together. This is a wonderful and rare institution and you have made difficult and wise decisions in the past.” In other words: Whatever you say, boss. It might as well be one of the citizen-slaves of Kim Jong-un talking.