Category Archives: 2009 Contract Negotiations

Bargaining set for Aug. 6-7, important developments

The Indianapolis News Guild has some important new developments to share with you regarding our ongoing effort to craft a final contract that both negotiating teams can accept and that you, our duespayers, can ratify soon.

Acting on the advice of our parent union, TNG-CWA, we proposed to the company that we involve a federal mediator at this stage of the negotiations. Having received no objections from our verbal and written communications about the mediator, we contacted Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Commissioner Conrad Bowling and requested possible meeting dates from him. He offered Aug. 6 and 7 and we have accepted those dates. The company has agreed.

Also, we have filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the company, based on threats that management made to the Guild in the course of discussions over possible bargaining dates. The company threatened to issue a “last, best and final” proposal if we would not agree to certain bargaining dates. When we informed them that we were unable to agree to the certain specific dates that management was demanding, the company issued that “last, best and final” proposal. This violates labor law on several counts. Bargaining dates must be mutually agreeable and not something that one side dictates to another. In addition, a “last, best and final” proposal is something that is normally given after all attempts at a mutual agreement have been exhausted. It is not supposed to be used as a punitive tool to force the union to meet before it is ready to resume discussions. We believe the company’s actions are premature, punitive, regressive and illegal retaliation for our refusal to be unnecessarily rushed back to the table, as well as retaliation for Guild members daring to reject their previous package offer. We are contemplating additional charges with the NLRB.

The company did this after accusing the Guild in a meeting last Friday of “stalling” after we asked for an extra week to reconstitute our bargaining committee, which was devastated by layoffs of team members Sylvia Halladay and Michelle Watson. Simply put, the company still wants at least a 12 percent pay cut from the Guild-represented employees. See below for more details about what the company is now seeking. We also asked management to provide us with answers to an information request that they have had for many weeks now, and the company told us that their response to our request for information was contingent on our agreeing to their bargaining dates (another violation of labor law). They did eventually provide us with a response but it is lacking in any substantial details.

Star management and Gannett corporate lawyers want people to believe that we are unduly dragging out negotiations. Given the circumstances, we firmly believe we are acting appropriately in seeking the time to fully reconstitute our bargaining committee and seeking more information about the company’s supposed financial needs. We have NEVER refused to bargain; we have not agreed to the company’s timetable as to when the next meetings will take place and as a result, they have resorted to bully tactics. By the way, the company has never given us any explanation why they feel the meetings must take place right away.

Our motto since talks began in January is “Negotiate, don’t dictate” and we have sacrificed our pay through two furloughs and lost valued comrades. Given the economic climate, we believe that Guild members would agree to a wage freeze for two years and might accept some type of pay cut – especially if that cut isn’t permanent, or would improve when Gannett sees ad revenues improve.

But Gannett is claiming economic needs without providing proof, and they have so far failed to provide any relevant information to us regarding their justification for a double-digit percentage pay reduction. Guild President Tom Spalding asked Indy Star Publisher Michael G. Kane for an explanation of the numbers and was rebuffed, as many of you heard.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is an agency of the United States government that handles arbitration and mediation of labor disputes and contract negotiations. We are hopeful that the neutral mediator will be of assistance in reaching understandings that can lead to a finalized tentative agreement that both sides can accept. As we said before, we’re waiting to see if the company will accept the mediator’s invitation to meet.

Further complicating these negotiations is the fact that the company has been sending out mixed messages. They started on April 17, when we were told in a memo: “While Star Media has seen similar economic impact on our local business, we were able to fare better than the company as a whole.” They continued July 16, when Robert J. Dickey told analysts during a Gannett 2nd quarter earnings call: “I would tell you that our interstate group, which is Indianapolis, Midwest portion of the country, right now is our strongest performer.”

Another issue: The copy of the company’s last, best and final contract offer was purported by their side to (except for the wage proposal) to be identical to the tentative agreement previously provided to the Union – the deal that membership rejected 97-9 on June 30. Upon review, however, we find that the proposal is nowhere near identical and in fact we have identified a number of significant differences between this proposal and the previous package that was presented to Guild membership for a vote. This makes us wonder if we have received an incorrect version of their offer or if the company is being disingenuous.

How it shakes out (this is our initial review of their proposal and should not be considered a complete inventory of changes at this time):

  • An immediate 12 percent pay cut for all Guild represented employees, rather than a split 8% and 4% as in the rejected offer.
  • No pay increases for the two-year term of the contract, same as rejected offer.
  • Wage scales remain but no one advances for term of contract, same as rejected offer.
  • It completely eliminates merit pool language; rejected offer kept the merit pool language but the merit pool went dormant. New language would give managers a great deal of discretion regarding future merit pay increases.
  • Seniority language related to layoffs is much worse than the rejected offer.
  • Same 10 jobs lose OT.
  • More Guild positions become exempted than in rejected agreement.
  • Still allows paraprofessionals to write stories.
  • Still adds “custom publications” to management rights section.
  • Still adds “flexibility” language that leaves advertorial/editorial decisions to sole discretion of publisher and now does not include any exclusions of any classifications; rejected agreement excepted reporters, copy editors and photographers from advertorial work.

Changes from current contract there were not in rejected offer:

  • Outsourcing language has been put back in the offer; this was not in the rejected contract offer.
  • It eliminates the language that outlined how previous experience was used to figure out where new employees would start on the pay scale.
  • Adds a clause to sentence on poor review not being reason to reduce pay that says, “unless the Employer determines that a consistently poor performance rating in a current job classification merits a job transfer to a lower classification in lieu of termination.”
  • Employees who are removed from their positions by the company may move into lower paying jobs but only with Employer approval; current contract left decision to leave position for lower paying job to the employee.
  • Changes notification time of permanent change in work day (8 to 10 hours or 10 to 8 hours) to two weeks; current contract calls for 30 days notice.
  • Eliminates daily overtime.
  • Call backs guaranteed 3 hours of straight time minimum; current contract calls for 3 hours of OT minimum.
  • Allows scheduling of split days off for reporters based on requirements of beat.

View a PDF copy of the company’s contract proposal

And finally, it is uncertain whether the company is still demanding that the Guild drop our current arbitration on the December layoffs.

We’ll continue to fight on your behalf.

We are planning an internal survey to reassess what our members can live with.

Tom Spalding
President, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

In consultation with our International


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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, Grievances/Arbitration, Layoffs/Buyouts

Guild rejects Gannett contract proposal

The membership of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild voted 97-9 today to reject a two-year contract proposal originally put forth by the company April 15. Because this was not a last, final offer the union bargaining team looks forward to resuming negotiations with representatives of Gannett and reaching a deal that is acceptable to both the company and to the journalists and building services workers committed to making the Indianapolis Star the best it can be.


Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, Events/Meetings

Contract vote today

  • What: Secret-ballot vote on Gannett’s two-year contract offer
  • When: Tuesday, June 30, noon-8 p.m.
  • Where: Musicians Hall, across from Star parking garage, 325 N. Delaware St., Downtown Indy

This is just a reminder to set aside 5 to 15 minutes today and get to the polls any time during the eight-hour window. Cast your vote; I don’t care if it’s a “yes” or a “no” on the company’s deal — just use the election process to have your say. The country is watching, and we’ll let the trade pubs like E&P and local media like IBJ know the results later tonight … so let’s show them a great turnout!

For the Guild CWA Local 34070
Tom Spalding, president
(317) 340-7836


Here’s a round-up of the significant changes:

  • Permanent pay cut of 12 percent (8 percent cut July 1, 4 percent cut Oct. 1) for all Guild-represented employees.
  • Employees whose pay would drop below the federal minimum wage with a 12 percent pay cut will be reduced only to the federal minimum wage.
  • No pay increases for the term of the contract (two years from date of signing.)
  • Minimum rates of pay steps remain in the contract but are reduced 12 percent and go dormant. Employees in the steps will not receive their automatic step increases during the term of the contract.
  • Merit pool language remains in the contract but goes dormant. No merit pay increases for Guild-represented employees for the term of the contract.
  • Regarding advertorial content, adds language to allow the Publisher flexibility to assign Guild members “traditional and non-traditional tasks.” Requires the Publisher to “be cognizant of and sensitive to its policy relating to ethics and conflicts of interest.” Side letter to the contract states in part, “the parties are in agreement that the Company’s current ethics policy does not allow editorial employees to produce advertorial copy.”
  • In the event of layoffs, the company will consider seniority as the first factor along with individual skills and abilities and an employee’s performance and disciplinary history. The Guild gives up the right to grieve or seek arbitration on individual layoffs. We do have the right to grieve and arbitrate if the company ignores seniority or fails to use the criteria properly overall.
  • Positions currently covered by the Guild contract (Graphics/Design: Day Design Editor, Night Design Editor; Digital Central, Calendar Editor) become exempt from all provisions of the contract.
  • 10 positions become exempt from the overtime provision but still are covered by all other provisions of the contract (Cartoonist, Sports Columnist, Public Service Columnist, Conversations Central Columnist, On The Town Columnist, IU Sports Beat, Motor Sports Beat, Pacers Beat, Colts Beat, Sports Special Projects Beat.)
  • On roundtrips of 100 miles or more, if an employee requests to use his/her own car rather than a company vehicle, the company will reimburse for actual fuel expenses only rather than the company’s fixed mileage rate.
  • The paraprofessional job designation will cover calendar clerks, production liaisons and similar positions. Paraprofessionals may write stories of an uncomplicated nature.
  • Changes the length of time the company has to give another day off to employees whose regular day off falls on a holiday from two weeks to up to 27 days.
  • In addition to these contract changes: The Guild must withdraw its arbitration against the company on behalf of seven members laid off in December, 2008. The arbitration is scheduled to be heard July 28.

All other provisions of the current contract are unchanged.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the entire proposed contract

Results will be posted here on our Web site. You can also get the latest updates by following us on our Twitter account @indynewsguild.

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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, Events/Meetings

Deadline to request absentee ballot is Wednesday, June 24

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild is reminding you to request an absentee ballot if you aren’t sure you’ll be here for the JUNE 30 vote — the vote is one week from today. [So far we’ve sent out 25!]. Wednesday June 24 is the deadline to request a ballot so you can get it in the mail to us quickly … so e-mail Tom Spalding at to get yours delivered to you. We want 100% turnout. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to make your voice heard!

And for non-duespayers, this is a GREAT time to sign up. E-mail Tom at the same address.

Also: An information session is set for this Sunday, June 28, 2-4 p.m., Musicians Hall

Background, as always, on!

In solidarity, the News Guild contract team.

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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, Events/Meetings

Absentee ballots going fast for 6/30 contract vote

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild is reminding you to request an absentee ballot if you aren’t sure you’ll be here for the JUNE 30 vote — that’s two weeks from today. [So far we’ve sent out 13]. You’ve only got a week until the deadline to request a ballot, so e-mail Tom Spalding at to get yours delivered to you. We want 100% turnout. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to make your voice heard! And for non-duespayers, this is a GREAT time to sign up. E-mail Tom at the same address. In solidarity, the News Guild contract team.

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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, Events/Meetings