A tentative agreement on a new 2-year contract

We essentially fought the company to a draw.

The Guild fended off the company’s most odious contract proposals on severance pay but had to accept a new 2-year deal that brings no guarantees of wage increases. In the view of your bargaining team, it leaves much to be desired. But it also is the best deal we’re likely to get.

The agreement Wednesday came just a few hours after a midday meeting of Guild members where passions were high and – with no agreement in sight – we were talking street protests. 

From the sentiments shared at that meeting, the Guild’s bargaining team found a pathway to a deal – we would drop our pay raise request in order to kill the company’s proposal to do away with severance pay for workers fired after being deemed poor performers.

This was important because so many of you said that proposal could easily be used by the company to make it easier and cheaper to fire folks who have fallen out of favor. It was also increasingly clear the company would not budge on wages, raising the prospects of an ugly stalemate and potentially an impasse.

Several aspects of this deal amount to making the best of a difficult situation. Some examples:

*The company will begin its job cuts by seeking people willing to accept voluntary layoffs. Those accepted will get normal severance payments but also, because of this deal, health insurance coverage during the severance.

*Severance and health care coverage will also apply to employees not chosen for jobs in the new organizational chart.

*Downtown building service workers whose jobs will disappear because of the move to Circle Center Mall will get an additional four weeks of severance pay.

The Guild also fended off the company’s proposal to use temp workers on an unlimited basis. Previously, the contract limited temps to three months, six if the Guild agreed to an extension. As a compromise, we agreed to allow temps to be employed with the company for one year.

There were some other language revisions on advanced notification before layoffs, on pay scale minimums and on job titles that will reflect the new reorganization.

We know that the victories here were mainly defensive. But in such a challenging environment for newspapers your show of support over these many months – and especially in these final days – helped us emerge in a better position than we might have. We’re also quite convinced that, compared with other Gannett papers without Guilds, the workers whose jobs are about to disappear will fare much better.

These next few weeks – as the reorganization takes hold – promise to be difficult, even painful. But the lesson from these negotiations is that we are much stronger when we hang together.

Most striking in these final days was how selfless our members were. Those whose tenure here appears to be ending were still concerned about the need for wage increases for workers who will remain. Those who expect to be here when the dust settles were concerned about preserving the severance for those more vulnerable. It was an uncommon level of altruism; we were humbled by it.

Not to be overlooked are the countless hours the Guild bargaining team put into this endeavor. Jill Disis, Michael Campbell and Bob Scheer took part at different points. These past three days of marathon sessions involved Jill Phillips, Tony Cook, DuJuan Carpenter, Michael Pointer, John Russell and TNG sector representative Jay Schmitz. They represented you passionately and aggressively. They sacrificed long hours from their jobs and their families. It was a privilege to work with them.

Finally, we know some aspects of mobilizing sometimes feel silly. How many Fridays can one wear red? How many helium-filled balloons does it take to get a decent contract? But we know for a fact that, in the end, your willingness to show your colors made it clear to management that we were united, and the Guild wasn’t to be taken lightly.

We hope that as many of you as possible will, along with your families, join us this Sunday for our outing at the Indians game at Victory Field. After such a heavy week, let’s enjoy a day of fun at the ballpark. See Vic Ryckaert for tickets.

Bobby King

Guild president

  

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Picking up the pieces — again

Obviously, what happened Monday — with the Star announcing yet another round of job reductions — has left us all with a wide range of emotions spanning from shock to fear to anger. After so much experience with these kinds of bleak days — six rounds of reductions in six years — you might think it wouldn’t be so, but it is.
 
Of course this round of cuts was dressed up in the form of a reorganization into what the Star, and Gannett newsrooms in many cities, are calling the “newsroom of the future.” (Gannett used similar phrasing in 2006). The most glaring thing about the newsroom of the future is that it involves 15% fewer journalists than the newsroom of the present. For those whose jobs are likely lost this time, we can only remind you that you’ve done your jobs well, it’s just unfortunate that Gannett’s goals for newsrooms are ever-changing. That your job is no longer their priority reflects more about the corporation than anything it says about you.
 
The strange aspect of this is that there’s not a clean break. Some of us will scour the job menu for a position we might fit into. And some of us will be left standing when this game of musical chairs stops. Several no doubt are considering the voluntary layoffs. Others who may have jobs after Sept. 5 may decide you’ve had enough of the annual summer roulette. 
 
Most immediately, your Guild bargaining team members are regrouping today and to try and finish negotiating a new contract. The company has a proposal on the table that moves off some of their harsher stances on severance, but leaves others. We give the credit for their move to all of you who made your voices heard on this. But the biggest remaining hurdle is pay. Several of us will still be here after Sept. 5. More than two-thirds of the newsroom saw no pay raise this past year, despite getting good job reviews, despite all the efforts you made to learn new skills and new software, and despite the fact inflation has kept eating away at your earnings. Given all you’ve had to learn and do and the efforts you made, we find this appalling. 
 
The Guild is contemplating some form of group action, possibly as early as Wednesday. Please stay tuned. If you have thoughts on anything about the reorganization, about the job cuts, about negotiations, about group actions, please share them.
 
We’re here to serve you. 
 
Your Guild leadership

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A new home for The Star could have its advantages

The Star will relocate in a few weeks to a new home Downtown. The spot offers benefits beyond a great menu of nearby restaurants, especially to the paper’s workers — who are looking for better wages, affordable health care and a fair new contract. If the Star’s management continues to try and dictate terms for that contract, instead of negotiating, the new location should provide a highly visible spot for the Guild to take action. 

The Star will relocate to this Downtown spot in September. The new location has many great features.

The Star will relocate to this prime Downtown real estate in September.

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A Declaration of Resistance

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 2014

The Unanimous Declaration of the representatives of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for Workers to stand up to the Man, a decent respect to public opinion requires us to declare the causes which impel us to be really ticked off.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women deserve a living wage, that they are endowed by their Creator with a need for decent and affordable health care so that they may continue to have a life and pursue Happiness, that to secure these rights they should not be cast off to the ash heap just because they have attained 50 years of age or to prop up a quarterly earnings report.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Corporations so established need a little kick in the pants on occasion, especially when they are guilty of a long train of abuses and usurpations.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these workers of Gannett and of StarMedia. The history of the present CEO and the Publisher and of the Corporation is a history of repeated layoffs, of furloughs, of outsourcing and of a 10% pay cut which has never been fully restored, even as upper management has wallowed in bonuses.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

That even as the cost of living, the cost of medical care, the costs of putting children through college and most other costs continue to rise, wages for the common worker have been reduced and they have further lost ground to the steady march of inflation.

That as the Government attempted to make health care more affordable, the Corporation exploited the uncertainties of the season to shift even more costs to the Worker, to reduce its own, and to force workers to choose between crippling costs or avoiding necessary medical care for themselves and their children.

That even as the Corporation remains profitable, even as its stock price has increased tenfold, even as executive bonuses and compensation have remained at obscene levels, the Corporation pleads poverty and that there is nothing left to share with the workers who drive its success.

That the Corporation recently promised its CEO a payout of $46-million should she lose her job from a sale of the company, even as the Corporation was telling us, its Workers, that our humble severance program — which for the 100 members of our workforce amounts to a severance one-twentieth of the CEO’s — is too generous and too charitable, and therefore must be cut.

That the tireless Worker has absorbed all these abuses while being required to devote his whole life and his whole being, his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other personal social media accounts to sell the Corporate wares, to exploit the Worker’s connections to the community for the Corporation’s benefit, to master the technical attributes of every aspect of journalism, from writing to photography to headline writing to web design because so many Workers who used to perform those functions are now gone, to act not only as journalist but also to do a large part of the paper’s marketing too, to decipher the ever-changing and ever-confounding software changes which the Corporation unveils every 60 days in its quest to make work simpler yet which, inevitably, makes it more complicated, to demand and receive the unending flexibility of the Worker while the Corporation shows precious little flexibility of its own.

That the Corporation seems unconcerned that its Workers are too busy — doing the jobs of three people and now also of management — to take their allotted vacation time, that these Workers are suffering more frequent stress-related illnesses and fatigue that must be managed with high-deductible medical care, and in at least one instance a comrade died from a heart-related malady, which surely had nothing to do with a stressful job.

And while many who have endured such neglect do yet persevere out of a love for the craft and a sense of duty to the community, the Corporation seems willfully blind to the fact that its abuses have driven from the profession a steady march of experienced and talented workers, many of whom have taken their skills to our digital competitors or other media companies. The Corporation has welcomed this exodus as a means to further reduce its payroll, a goal that may one day be realized when visitors to our newsroom look around and see only mercenaries of the modern era — an army of temp workers.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, solemnly publish and declare, that our Workers are, and of Right ought to be, mad as Hell and that we have reached an unfortunate state: We are unwilling to take it anymore.

Henceforth, to proclaim our dissatisfaction, we Resolve to agitate, decorate, convene, protest, march, align, resist, chant, sing and wear bright and bold colors in a uniform fashion even when such colors are out of season until the Corporation recognizes that its workers are flesh and blood people, that it stops acting like a bully at the table of Negotiations and that it gives us a decent contract.

RESOLVED, this Fourth of July, 2014.

 The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

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A Message to Star Management

A Message to Star Management

So far during contract talks, the conversation has been a bit one-sided. Star management has tried to dictate terms. It’s had little interest in listening. There’s been little negotiation. That must end. This was the message the Guild briefly brought to the streets today as workers gathered during a brief afternoon break.

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June 26, 2014 · 8:36 pm

It’s not charity. It’s what’s right.

Years ago, The Star made a promise to its employees: If we must resort

to layoffs, or if we feel like you’re no longer up to the job, we’ll provide

a modest severance to make the transition easier. It wasn’t much, but it

recognized that workers are people.

It recognized loyalty.

Now, The Star wants to break that promise. It wants to drastically reduce

severance for veteran workers — people who have given decades of their

lives to The Star. And The Star wants to forget decades of good work –

and eliminate the severance – for a worker who has one bad year.

Why the change of heart?

Because The Star wants to make it cheaper to lay people off. Because

The Star wants to make it cheaper to get rid of veteran workers. Worst of

all, because The Star says severance is charity. It says The Star is no longer

a charitable organization.

When did keeping your promise become charity?

It’s not charity.

It’s what’s right.

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Fighting for Affordable Health Care

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

Out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, for necessary medical surgeries, for physical therapy and just about everything else have gone up dramatically, cutting deeply into the budgets of workers. For people on Gannett’s family plans, there’s been the added blow of premium increases that, in some cases, amount to more than $200 a month beyond what they were in January. For many, this has meant 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.

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild is beginning to assert its right, on behalf of its members, to seek proposals for health coverage from sources other than the single, burdensome and family-budget killing plan now offered by Gannett. For our workers, it is a matter of family economic survival.

 

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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