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Union contract coming due? Time to grab ankles.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Feb 8, 2008.

  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Anyone out there whose Guild contract is due for renewal in the next year or so? I've got to think that there couldn't possibly be a worse time.

    It used to be, the suits would try to dazzle the grunt journalists with how far below "projections" the revenues had fallen and what a hit that meant to the profit margin, blah blah blah.

    Now, they've got hollow-point ammo aimed at our hearts in the form of their balance sheets hemorrhaging red ink. They legitimately can give an ultimatum of "buyouts/layoffs" vs. "givebacks" in the new contract. I fully expect some company negotiator to tell the union reps flat-out, "Either you guys come down 5 percent across the board in wages, or we're going to shed 20 percent of the newsroom staff."

    Raises? They don't got to give no stinkin' raises! What are you going to do, jump to a rival newspaper? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ain't no one hiring anyway.

    What are you going to do, go on STRIKE!? You would lose what little audience you have left, along with what little public sentiment you have left. And there is a pool of unemployed and readily available journalists to be brought in as scabs that is more vast than ever.

    Is there any reason management wouldn't turn the screws like never before on a union newsroom now, beyond wanting to get a deal done quickly and quietly in advance of putting the newspaper operation up for sale altogether? (Not sure who'd be lining up to buy one, come to think of it.) And hell, they used to turn the screws just because they could and felt like it. Now they actually can make a compelling case that they need to do so.

    How would a Guild leader convince the rank-and-file to stand tough, not settle for crumbs, etc.? Mission: Impossible?
  2. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    As someone who represented a Guild unit in an organization that filed for bankruptcy, I can tell you it's an excruciating experience to negotiate giveback upon giveback to try and save a failing company. If a company is claiming financial hardship, however, it must share its books with the union, so your reps (with a good forensic accountant) should be able to gauge the degree of hardship and be in position to recommend appropriate compromises.
  3. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Those books, of course, are cooked to the moon. Every company claims it's losing its ass, while its top brass and stockholders cruise around in limos.
  4. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Lisa needs braces!
  5. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    Dental plan!
  6. Walter Burns

    Walter Burns Member

    So we'll march day and night by the big water tower...
    They have the plant, but we have the power!
  7. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    do they use red ink if the profit margin is below 20 percent?
  8. ColbertNation

    ColbertNation Member

    Our union guy is in the middle of negotiations right now, and it's unbearable for me just to watch. I actually considered using the blue font for negotiations because there seems to be no give-and-take here. It's basically them saying, "Here are the changes we want to make; if you want anything from us, you have to agree to everything on our list."
    Their list includes cutting back (or rather eliminating) sick days, implementing swipe cards and switching to bi-weekly pay.
    At this point, I have to ask -- do unions actually wield any sort of power in this business anymore (or did they ever), and if not, then what purpose do they serve?
  9. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Well, they can still get you fired if you withhold your dues. Management would be happy to see eye-to-eye with any local chapter on that.

    I always wondered about the bad deal we had to begin with, paying dues every month when you're locked into a six-year contract with 2 percent raises. Now you're handing over part of your wages so the union can sign off on reducing those wages. Nice.
  10. Dessens71

    Dessens71 Member

    I think I might be able to get out of the Guild if I get a minor change to my job title. One of those "senior writer" type of deals where I think I'd technically be considered mangement. Think I should pursue it?
    I'm considering it. The way I see it, if the company wants to lay me off or whatever, it's not like the union is really going to stop them.
  11. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Not when they start playing fast and loose with seniority rules, the way the Sun-Times in Chicago recently did. Either it's last-in, first-out, or you might as well have no union when it comes to layoffs if it lets management cherry-pick those it unloads. Of course, maybe the union got a little better severance than you'd get if you had no one watching your back.

    Sad, huh, that it comes down to that: A union paper might get you a better severance, so you pay dues for years up until the day you lose your job. Hooray, journalism!
  12. The Commish

    The Commish Guest

    Contract is up July 31 -- and negotiations won't start until May1. I'm new to all this, but it seems to me everyone would be served by starting -- and ending -- ASAP.
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