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Gannett Honolulu union prepares to strike

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by DanOregon, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Advertiser Workers Take Sunday Strike Vote
    By Andrew Pereira, KHON

    About 600 Honolulu Advertiser workers are preparing for a strike vote this Sunday as a labor dispute with the Gannett Corporation, the newspaper’s owner, drags into a critical phase.

    Advertiser employees who spoke to Khon2 News say they feel betrayed by Gannett, a company with more than $8 billion in operating revenues that publishes 84 other dailies across the country and holds internet and television assets in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

    "The sticking point for a lot of the union members is a substandard pay increase and at the same time making them pay considerably more for the health care," said Wayne Cahill, administrative officer for the Hawaiian Newspaper Guild, one of six employee unions negotiating jointly with Gannett.

    “We think the members are going to tell the company loud and clear that they're not going to accept the kind of proposals the company's put on the table,” Cahill said about Sunday’s strike vote.

    Under the company’s 21 month contract offer, wages for Advertiser employees would be frozen for the 9 months of the deal with a one time 1.5% bonus. In the final 12 months of the contract, set to begin in June 2008, workers would get a 1% pay raise.

    The major sticking point however is medical coverage. Cahill says under a family plan, newspaper employees would have to pay hundreds of dollars more in premiums every month. “They'll have to pay about $395 a month just to have the plan and then they'll be subject to the co-pays that go with the plan,” he said.

    Calls to the Gannett Corporation at the company’s Virginia headquarters and to the newspaper’s Hawaii publisher, Lee Webber, were not returned. While many mainland newspapers have had to scale back operations and trim staff because of falling profits, Cahill says the Advertiser remains profitable.

    During contract talks Cahill said Gannett negotiators “were quite pointed that they knew that the Honolulu Advertiser was making money.”

    “What would you do if your company offered you a pay cut,” said one Advertiser reporter, when asked about the possibility of workers authorizing a strike vote.

    Employees have been working under the terms of a five year contract that expired last June. Under the old deal reporters agreed to voluntarily post blogs and shoot their own video for the newspaper’s website, something that could be threatened after Sunday's vote.

    Both sides last met in December but Cahill says those discussions were not very promising.

    “I think they're trying to match what they've been able to accomplish elsewhere,” Cahill said about Gannett’s contract offer, which many of the newspaper’s employees find insulting. “They're pretty upset and they fell pretty bad about it. I think it's definitely a case of corporate greed.”

    In addition to printing the newspaper, the Advertiser’s Kapolei press also prints community and military publications that would be crippled by a strike.

    Cahill is unsure if the Advertiser would continue to operate if workers walk off the job. “Unfortunately when a newspaper's on strike like with the writer's guild with the broadcast folks, they get what they can get and it's not the same quality.”

    All six of the newspapers employee unions must approve Sunday’s strike vote before a strike deadline can be set. Cahill did not give a time-table for a possible strike, saying the goal right now is to leverage Gannett back to the bargaining table.

    “We think that it's going to be a substantial strike vote (Sunday) that'll really send a message to the company that come on, let's get back to the bargaining table - let's get this thing done.”
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Good luck to the union!
  3. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Get McGarrett on the phone, quick!
  4. TrooperBari

    TrooperBari Active Member

    They'll need it.

  5. MoociePooh

    MoociePooh New Member

    It doesn't seem like a great idea -- especially the way newspapers are trimming employees. Keep your fingers crossed as far as the union being successful :).
  6. StaggerLee

    StaggerLee Well-Known Member

    Well, the Honolulu people don't have to worry about losing their job. Unless I've been told wrong by union reps (yes, I've actually contacted some to inquire about the process), an employee can not be fired simply because they're in a union. Now, the employer can put them on shit patrol and make them do horrible assignments until they quit, but they can't fire them.

    The employees that have to worry are the Gannett employees at non-union papers. Those are the ones that will feel it in the end. Those are the ones that will have their budgets cut to make up for lost revenue in Honolulu.

    If you look up evil in the dictionary, it says see also Gannett Corporation.
  7. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    The usual procedure is to bring in strikebreakers who will put out the paper while regular employees are on strike. Strikebreakers can be loaners. Or they can be "replacement workers" who are considered permanent employees. The old employees go on a rehire list and return as positions become available.

  8. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't think it works that way. If it did, it would be like shouting out that papers should unionize and play hardball -- the last thing that Gannett wants.
  9. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    And Gannett's problem is going to be finding enough strikebreakers on the islands. It's not like they're going to pony up to fly them in.

    The union just might win this one.
  10. It's the union workers' own fault! Their demands are taking the company down!

    Wait. Wrong thread.
  11. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Of course they will. Most professional strikebreakers come from thousands of miles away, The strikebreakers get paid more money than regular employees, and they are sheltered and fed at company expense, and given paid protection to and from work. It is expensive, but that's how it's done.
  12. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Thanks to some competition, this is one of the few spots that a work action remains feasible.
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