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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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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