A year of working to represent Guild members

These are some of the issues and problems the Guild has dealt with over the past year, along with some of its accomplishments:

+ In March the Guild filed a grievance over the hiring of a so-called “casual” employee to work as a copy editor in the newsroom. In addition to receiving no benefits, this “casual” employee was not going to have a regular work schedule, instead being called to come in to work whenever needed. The problem is there is no “casual” employee category in our contract. There are full-time, part-time and temporary employees – and they all must have regular schedules. The Guild won the grievance when the company reversed its decision to hire “casual” employees. In addition, the “casual” employee involved was eventually hired as a part-time employee, and now receives the pro-rated vacation and sick time benefits called for by our contract.

+ The Guild intervened in a disciplinary hearing against a veteran employee who had been written up for insubordination and threatened with dismissal if he ever again engaged in the specific behavior. The Guild had two objections – there was no real “performance improvement” plan outlined in the employee’s warning and there was no time limit for the improvement as required by our contract. The resolution was a letter created for the employee’s file that noted his remorse and a commitment to improve in the future and the threat he would be fired if he ever did it again was rescinded.

+ The Guild contacted editor Dennis Ryerson before filing a grievance about a situation in which an employee was working during vacation to update an IndyStar.com blog and to file stories for The Star on an out-of-state event. There was a quick resolution: The department and managers involved were told not to let this happen again – the company shouldn’t require or allow employees to work for The Star or IndyStar.com during their vacations — and the employee was reimbursed for his time.

+ The Guild held its annual “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” event in June. About 50 Guild members and their families attended the Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field on June 22 with tickets furnished by the Guild.

+ The Guild sponsored a co-ed softball team – open to all Star employees and family members whether they are represented by the Guild or not — after the company chose not to contribute any money to sponsor a team. The team even received a mention in one of then-publisher Barbara Henry’s daily notes to employees. However, Henry didn’t mention “The Star’s softball team” was sponsored by the Guild with no financial support from the company, leaving the impression it was the company that was sponsoring the activity.

+ The Guild intervened several times over many months to resolve a situation in which a reporter in the metro department agreed to temporarily take on the additional responsibility filling in as a night editor, a position not covered by the Guild contract. The temporary role became a regular 4 p.m.-midnight job for this staffer. Finally, in mid-September, this employee received a check for $4,300 as compensation for working above classification. In addition, the employee received assurance she would receive an $80 per week differential for working as the night editor from then on. The temporary assignment has since ended and the employee has returned to her job of reporter.

+ The Guild helped a new part-time employee receive the benefits he is eligible for under our contract. Part-time employees who work less than 30 hours per week are not eligible for some benefits, primarily the health insurance programs. But they are eligible for others. When the employee was hired, he was told about his pay and work hours but nothing else. When asked, the employee’s supervisors said they didn’t know if he was entitled to any benefits. It took several weeks and repeated contacts of HR by Guild officers, but the employee was finally informed of his pro-rated time off for vacation, sick time, jury duty and bereavement – all required by our contract. If you are a part-time employee and have questions about the benefits you are eligible to receive, contact a Guild officer or steward.

+ The Guild distributed its annual holiday Kroger gift cards to employees downtown, the zones and the PPC. All dues payers received $25 gift cards. About 30 Guild members, along with all the Guild officers, as well as ex-staffers Rebecca Neal and Matt Gonzales donated their gift cards to the 10 dues-paying Guild members who were laid off Dec. 3. Each of the 10 laid-off employees received $100 in gift certificates.

+ The Guild added 33 dues-paying members over the past year. They came from every section of the newsroom, the zones, and building services. They included new hires and long-time employees who just hadn’t gotten around to joining. The officers want to thank all of you who have stepped up to support the Guild with the money from your dues.

+ The Guild added four stewards to represent our members. Leon Ward, who was on the negotiating committee for our last contract, is our steward at the PPC. Michael Pointer, a sports reporter, is our steward in the South Zone. Michelle Watson, a news copy editor, and Adam Yates, an online content editor, are stewards who are available in the newsroom for those who work nights and weekends. All of our stewards are on this year’s contract negotiating committee, have worked to recruit new dues-paying members and are available to answer questions for members.

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