Fighting for Affordable Health Care

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild is concerned about the harsh financial blow many of its members will suffer starting January 1 from changes to the health insurance coverage offered by Gannett, corporate owner of The Indianapolis Star.

Everyone will face more out-of-pocket costs, but people on Gannett’s family plans could see premiums increase by THOUSANDS of dollars annually. For some, costs will double. For many, this will mean extreme financial hardships.

Gannett blames the increase on Obamacare, higher medical costs and how employees have been using health care. We are concerned Gannett is taking advantage of a changing health care landscape to shift more costs to employees.

We cannot sit idly by and let this happen. We don’t intend to.

Members of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild will be working with unions from newspapers and TV stations owned by Gannett in other cities around the country to show our collective concern about the health coverage.

Gannett must provide its employees with affordable health care.

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The latest round of layoffs at the Star

These new layoffs – the fifth round of layoffs conducted at the Star in the past five years – didn’t cut deeply into the heart of the news operation as have some of the past cuts, didn’t remove layers of coverage as some have before. By and large, it may go unnoticed by readers.

But the layoffs Monday of 11 people still hurts and it once again revives an old fear that had subsided a bit in the two years since the last layoffs – that the knife of force reductions can be brought out with little notice.

Monday’s casualty list – 3 copy editors, 3 clerks, 2 custodians, a part-time photographer, a part-time graphic artist and an assistant calendar editor – were removed from the front lines of the newsgathering process by a layer or more.

Yet there are some things still troubling about Monday’s effort at – how did management characterize it – this “right sizing.”

First, the Star’s copy desk is getting thinner, the protective layers between publication and error prevention just got leaner. This started with deep cuts to the desk two years ago and shows little sign of being turned back. Plans that were in the works to retool the desk had to be scrapped as these new cuts were made.

Second, this right sizing effort seemed to save money for the company by reducing people with some of the smallest salaries – two custodians, three clerks, a calendar editor and a part-time photo editor. In the world of setting priorities for a leaner business, these jobs may seem less important than they once were. But we find it interesting that, while two management positions were cut, people at the bottom continue to be expendable when corners of management that seem superfluous – and where salaries are more robust – still remain intact.

Third, the Star continues to be a less than hospitable place for its most veteran staffers. We’re still gathering data but seven of the nine newsroom staffers let go Monday had more than 30 years experience. This follows issues that other veteran employees have faced in recent months, from the worst evaluations of their careers to demotions. This is a serious matter we will look further into.

Finally, what is it about Summer at the Star? We’ve had layoffs here in August 2008, July 2009, June 2011 and now July 2013. Most often, the layoffs have been corporate ordered reductions that have come at the end of bad revenue figures in the second quarter, as if executives start to worry their year-end bonuses are in jeopardy without a little cost cutting. We know the industry and its ad revenues have been shrinking, but it’s getting to where you want to hold on to your vacation until the summer layoff season passes.

In this instance, this surgical strike seems solely directed by Star Media publisher Karen Crotchfelt, who along with Editor Jeff Taylor, say it reflects our priority of having more boots on the ground. Both deserve credit in the past year for adding back reporters — namely for investigations, business, higher education, breaking news and features. But after they’ve been trying to tell the community we’re evolving, and that our business is transforming instead of dying, moves like Monday’s muddle the message, try as they might to see that the message goes unnoticed. It especially muddles the message for the employees who remain behind, and who are weary of being told by management that “we’re still bullish about our business.” We’ve heard that message through five layoffs now. It’s beginning to wear a little thin.

Here’s a solution: Hire some people who can sell advertising on the internet. Get some folks there who can think creatively enough to generate some new damned revenue streams. And make sure the next person who runs advertising doesn’t show up at the corporate meetings and perform the same happy song and dance routine without some results. That’s wearing a little thin, too.

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A new round of layoffs

Star Media has begun a new round of layoffs that will affect 11 people covered by the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild’s contract in what the paper’s management calls a “resizing of the organization.”

The breakdown of the layoffs are as such: 8 full-time staffers (2 of which will be custodians from the building services department) and 3 part-time staffers.

No reporters are among those to be laid off.

Guild officers were notified in general terms about the layoffs this morning, but we haven’t yet been given names or job titles of those affected. As such, it is hard to assess the impact this will have on the news operation.

The Guild’s contract covers approximately 100 people — reporters, photographers, copy editors, columnists, clerks, graphic artists, digital and social media specialists and a research librarian.

We will update this note later.

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Guild reaches tentative agreement with Star on a new 2-year contract

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild has won pay raises for most of its workers but was unable to stop The Indianapolis Star’s plans for outsourcing, which could ship up to eight jobs out the state.

The Guild’s contract negotiating team reached a tentative agreement Thursday with representatives of The Indianapolis Star in a deal which must still be ratified in a vote by the Guild’s membership.

The agreement was the definition of a compromise.

In an industry still cutting jobs and cutting pay, the deal would award the Guild’s workers raises of 2 to 4 percent, with the highest raises going to some of the Guild’s lowest paid workers. But it was only a small step toward restoring the 10 percent pay cuts the Guild took two years ago.

Despite making it a focal point of the Guild’s “Save the Star” campaign, the Guild’s team found that outsourcing the page design work was an area where The Star was unyielding. We made a strong case — in leafletting efforts, a street protest, a media campaign and at the bargaining table — that this could damage the local news product. But it became clear that this was an edict from Gannett, The Star’s parent company, and that the quality of the product was a secondary consideration to saving money.

The Guild knew this was an uphill battle going in. We were told this was one we couldn’t win. But we felt it was worth trying. And if Gannett attempts future outsourcing in Indianapolis, they can be assured we will wage an even more ardent campaign to resist such an effort.

At present, The Star hasn’t specified exactly what pages will be designed in Louisville or how many journalists in Indianapolis will be displaced. The last estimate we were given was six to eight.

The pay raises, while not fully restoring our 10 percent cuts from two years ago, were significant. Our industry is still in job and pay cutting mode. And newspaper unions around the country are still facing cuts such as the ones we took two years ago.

That we could squeeze out even these modest raises was a testimony the efforts of our workers and our friends in the community and the breadth of our public campaign.

The Guild, with financial help from the Communications Workers of America, purchased five billboards, ran three months of messaging on public radio, handed out more than 5,000 leaflets in Downtown locations and staged a protest/rally in front of The Star in November that was a first in the Guild’s history.

More importantly, we engaged people from the community in our cause. We received calls, emails, letters and thousands of page views on SavetheStar.com.

Leaders of the faith community — Jewish, Christian, Muslim and others — confronted The Star’s executives about the inequity of our pay cuts at a time of multimillion dollar bonus among Gannett’s executives. Those faith leaders also took a stand about the importance of a local newspaper being produced locally. For that, we will always be grateful.

The Guild’s ratification vote will take place next month.

While this round of bargaining is over, we remain committed to preserving quality journalism in Indianapolis. We will continue to resist any attempts to diminish that quality.

We will continue our efforts to Save the Star.

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Filed under 2011 Contract Negotiations, Save The Star

Media coverage of the “Save The Star” rally

Here are links to coverage of today’s “Save The Star” rally by local media. Learn more about our “Save The Star” campaign at SaveTheStar.com


WISH-TV
IndyStar employees protest outside HQ


RTV6
‘Save The Star’ Rally Takes Aim At Management


FOX59
IndyStar workers rally outside building Wednesday


Amos Brown
“Pickets lines RARE in Indy. RARER w/white collar workers. So @indynewsguild protest at Star today was unprecedented.”


Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
“Indy Star employees protest conditions at newspaper. twitpic.com/7m695y”

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Indianapolis Star newsroom employees rally to “Save The Star”

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More than 100 Indianapolis Star employees and their family members rally today as part of our “Save The Star” campaign. We’ll post more info, photos and video later tonight. Learn more about the “Save The Star” campaign at SaveTheStar.com

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November 30, 2011 · 4:02 pm

Contract negotiations resume today

Contract negotiations with Star and Gannett management are set to resume today. Negotiations will continue tomorrow. Keep an eye on your email for updates.

 

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