The Guild’s response to Boston Globe management

Management’s statement.

And here is the NewsGuild’s response to Boston Globe management. I have redacted the names.

Dear members

You may have seen the company’s email regarding the status of our contraction negotiations.

Here’s what’s really been happening:

The Guild asked the company to start negotiations in Sept. 2018. Company officials did not make themselves available until December 6.

On that day the company, represented by Trish Dunn of Jones Day, presented us with a proposal that would, among many, many problematic things:

  1. Give the company the ability to outsource our jobs.
  2. Eliminate overtime for most members.
  3. Strip us of seniority in layoffs.
  4. Remove wage steps that guarantee annual pay increases for employees who otherwise would receive no raises unless their managers agreed to them.
  5. Take away our ability to defend ourselves against abuses.
  6. Take away our ability to fight back if the company denies an employee’s claim of harassment against a supervisor.
  7. Remove the clause in our current contract that would require any future owner from honoring the bargaining agreement.
  8. Weaken, if not cut entirely, language in our contract that calls on the Globe to recruit and promote women and minorities.
  9. Slash our severance.

What would we get in return? Two percent annual wage increases for two years and a 401k match increase of 3 percent that came with a huge draw-back.

The company proposed language that would allow it to reduce and even eliminate the match without having to negotiate with the Guild, which it must do under our current contract.

Yes, the company has proposed changes to healthcare that would reduce costs for some members. But according to the Guild’s calculations, the changes would significantly increase healthcare costs for many of our other members, a fact we have reminded the company of repeatedly at the table.

The company wanted us to agree to this lopsided deal within two months. Then, when their deadline passed, the Globe withdrew its previous proposal and replaced it with one that would still cut our rights under the current contract but without any increases to our wages or 401k match.

As for the ten-week family leave we now have, the company seems to have forgotten that it was Guild members who proposed this to management in 2017 and had to prod the company for 18 months before it would join the ranks of other news organizations and provide a decent family leave package. This finally happened at the negotiation table after the Guild agreed to give up some of its sick days.

Since December, the Guild has continued to meet and schedule new dates for negotiations at a steady pace. The Guild has made proposals and movement, while the company has barely budged off of any of the major concessions it has demanded. These actions are in large part why the Guild has been compelled to file a bad faith bargaining charge against the Globe for violating the National Labor Relations Act.

In its email, the company accused us of failing to schedule enough meetings and abruptly canceling on Tuesday.

This requires some context. The company was unable to meet for a three-week stretch in July because one person on its seven-member team was on vacation. And at the most recent negotiating meeting, the company did not make a single proposal, saying it had nothing for us, even though the company owed us responses on several proposals.

The Guild did cancel one bargaining session, the first such cancellation during eight months of negotiations, because the Guild’s president, Scott Steeves, a critical member of our bargaining team, had to fill in for his manager, who has recently left the company and  has yet to be replaced.

The Guild’s negotiating team did meet on its own this week to draft more proposals and responses that will be provided to the company at the next bargaining session in September. The company knows this.

We’ve asked the company repeatedly to explain how provisions in the current contract are an impediment — financial or otherwise — to the Globe’s sustainability and growth. We are repeatedly met with the same vague response: “We want to be more flexible and nimble.”

Well, that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for employees who have tirelessly worked for this company even as it made monumental mistakes that threatened the health and future of the Globe. We were there for the company when its short-sighted decision to switch newspaper delivery vendors failed spectacularly and we were there for the company when the faulty printing machines it purchased led to delays in putting out the paper.

And we were there for the company even when our lives were threatened by a heavily armed man in California.

We’re not asking for much in return. But the company is demanding too much of people who have still not recovered from the drastic wage cuts the New York Times imposed in 2009.

We hope this helps set the record straight. We invite you to approach our team with questions or comments. Your feedback is critical to us.

And if you’d like to share your thoughts with the company’s negotiating team, here are their names and contact information:

In Solidarity,

The Guild Bargaining Committee

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Globe management’s latest statement on negotiations with the NewsGuild

The Guild’s response.

Boston Globe executives sent a memo of more than 1,300 words to the staff last Friday giving them their side of the ongoing negotiations between the paper and the NewsGuild, formerly known as the Newspaper Guild. A trusted source sent it along earlier this morning, and I’m posting the full text below.

The email comes several weeks after the Guild filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming unfair labor practices “given the slow pace of contract negotiations and the insulting strong-arm tactics used by the company’s lawyers.” The union staged a brief walkout as well. Interestingly, management now claims that it’s the union that’s dragging its feet.

Given that the Globe claims to have achieved profitability at the end of 2018, it strikes me as fair to ask why staff members, who’ve sacrificed in order to improve the Globe’s bottom line, shouldn’t share in that success. In the memo, management replies that those profits will disappear if costs aren’t kept under control.

“As we communicated in our 2018 year-end note to staff,” the email says, “we ended the year in the black precisely because we aggressively targeted savings across many facets of our business and carefully managed expenses to stay ahead of the structural declines we continue to see in our industry, including continued circulation and revenue declines. Most of that expense reduction has come from our production side, and it is not sustainable to continue significant cuts to the operations and staff that print, assemble and distribute the Globe every day. Rather, we must continue our vigilance in looking for efficiencies and identifying areas of real and sustainable growth in our editorial and commercial departments as well, just as all media companies are doing in today’s world to remain viable and relevant.”

The full text of the memo follows:

Dear Colleagues,

In an effort to keep you apprised of our negotiations with the Guild, we want to share an update on the current status of the negotiations after 19 bargaining sessions over eight months.

As we noted back in January, we provided the Guild’s bargaining committee with two complete contract proposals for consideration on December 6, 2018 — our first bargaining session. The first was a traditional proposal without any economics embedded, but with important operational and cleanup changes. The other was called a conditional alternative proposal, which included the same important operational and cleanup changes, but also included guaranteed annual wage increases of 2% for everyone, a 3% increase in the current 2% 401k company match, and 10 weeks of paid parental leave. The alternative proposal would have added up to 5% annually to employees’ compensation through wage increases and an increased 401k match. This alternative proposal was contingent on getting the contract settled quickly in early 2019.

The proposed 2% annual wage increases in the alternative proposal were in line with, or exceeded, annual increases at other major newspaper companies. The proposed 5% 401k match exceeded the match that most other major newspaper companies offer. The Guild rejected both, ending the possibility of an early 2019 contract settlement. At that time, we made it clear to the Guild that the Globe would not be willing to make any wage and benefit increases later agreed upon retroactive to January 1.

The one exception to that was paid parental leave. In its December 2018 proposals, the Globe offered, and the Guild accepted, 10 weeks of paid parental leave on the same terms as non-represented employees. In January, the Globe moved ahead with providing all of its employees with up to 10 weeks of paid parental leave.

The Globe has also put forth proposals to:

  • Continue providing employees with generous paid time off for vacations, sick leave and holidays — up to 47 paid days off a year, in excess of most other large city newspaper companies. Those 47 days are in addition to paid bereavement leave or short-term disability benefits, which the Globe also provides.
  • Provide the same health insurance benefits that it provides to its managers and other non-union employees, with a progressive premium cost-sharing arrangement that would allow lower paid employees to pay just 17% of the premiums and higher paid employees to pay 25%-30% of the premiums. The Globe’s proposed premium shares are, in most instances, lower than what other major newspaper companies require employees to contribute to their premiums. And, they compare favorably to national averages where employees pay about 29% of the premiums for family coverage and 18% of the premiums for single coverage (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of Employer Health Benefits).

Together, the Globe and the Guild have made progress in negotiations. We achieved tentative agreements on four full articles within the contract — including union security and dues check off that protect the Guild — and more than fifty tentative agreements on subsections, including those relating to:

  • Grievance rights
  • Grievance procedures
  • Protection of grievants
  • Parental leave
  • Sick leave
  • Union security
  • Union leave
  • Anti-discrimination
  • Diversity commitment
  • Career development and training
  • Labor Management Committee
  • Joint Committee on Workplace Equity and Diversity
  • Work week
  • Vacation pay
  • Reduced work week policy
  • Part-time employees’ sick leave
  • Part-time employees’ vacation
  • Dangerous conditions policy

The Globe has consistently tried to schedule regular meetings to bargain the contract. On Tuesday, the Guild committee cancelled this week’s bargaining session — a session that had been on the books since June 6. Moreover, they have been refusing to book regular bargaining dates through the rest of the year and has made its committee available only one or two dates each month, even though the Globe’s negotiators have requested to meet weekly. In fact, in our August 9th session, the Guild’s chief negotiator told us at the table that the Guild committee has only one single date available in October and has “nothing else to offer” for bargaining in October. The result: the Guild committee is available just three days for on-the-record bargaining between now and the end of October, after cancelling this week’s session.

We all share the common big picture goal of strengthening our newsroom and company for the challenges and opportunities we face in an ever-changing media industry. In the past few years we have undertaken a lot of new initiatives, made big investments for the long term sustainability, and went through all of our costs to be as efficient and focused as possible on fulfilling our mission. This hard work and patient endurance of a lot of change by each of us worked, with the company having revenues exceed expenses for the first time in 2018 after many, many years of operating at a loss. This is a major step towards the long-term sustainability of this institution that we are all striving for. However, we are not fully there. This step was a result of cost control, not revenue growth. We are working on new revenue generation opportunities and we need to be creative, nimble, and efficient to get there. No small part of the work we need to do is to ensure our collective bargaining contracts are structured in a way that both allows us to operate in this kind of a nimble, flexible way and provides the kinds of protections and security that the Guild is seeking.

To that end, as we have told the Guild leadership, our primary goal has not changed: modernizing our labor contract to match the realities of our business and to more closely mirror the terms of our peers in the media industry so that we can remain operationally flexible and competitive. The changes sought by the company have been accepted by unions, including the Guild, in other newsrooms in Boston and across the country. In addition, we continue to seek in negotiations to eliminate provisions in the contract that impede our commitment to diversity as the use of seniority in layoffs does; to treat our professional staff as professionals by providing strong total compensation packages, classifying employees appropriately and in alignment with others in our industry; and to have policies in place that reflect our support of working parents at BGMP [Boston Globe Media Partners, the Globe’s owner of record]. We’ve made concrete proposals to address the Guild’s concerns about our proposal to eliminate overtime for creative professionals. Keeping in perspective that most unit employees work no overtime, our proposals provide for comp time and premium pay when employees are required to work on their days off and make a commitment to adjust the salaries of some staff members who are consistently called upon to work longer hours.

To achieve these goals, Globe management is committed to continuing to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement that will allow the company to remain focused on the important work with which our community and region have entrusted us. We have and will always respect all bargaining units across our organization as we continue to drive the kind of transformation required to be a dynamic media company with a sustainable future for all our employees.

As we communicated in our 2018 year-end note to staff, we ended the year in the black precisely because we aggressively targeted savings across many facets of our business and carefully managed expenses to stay ahead of the structural declines we continue to see in our industry, including continued circulation and revenue declines. Most of that expense reduction has come from our production side, and it is not sustainable to continue significant cuts to the operations and staff that print, assemble and distribute the Globe every day. Rather, we must continue our vigilance in looking for efficiencies and identifying areas of real and sustainable growth in our editorial and commercial departments as well, just as all media companies are doing in today’s world to remain viable and relevant.

We will continue to be transparent as we proceed, just as we will continue to push for the ability to be nimble and flexible as an organization given the pace of change in our industry. We look forward to continuing to discuss these important proposals with the Guild.

Thank you,

The Globe’s Bargaining Committee

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Newspaper Guild blasts Boston Globe management over contract woes

This just in: Sounds like some major strife between Boston Globe management and the Boston Newspaper Guild, the union that represents the Globe’s newsroom employees as well as many on the business side.

Globe management’s hardline stance will be the subject of Emily Rooney’s rant tonight on “Beat the Press” (WGBH-TV, Channel 2) at 7 p.m. The full text of the union’s message follows. The video should be up on our YouTube channel later this evening.

Dear Guild members,

We need your help — The company has hired a prominent attorney from D.C. known for union-busting in the media industry.

During negotiations for a new contract with the Guild, the company has presented a ridiculous and draconian proposal that would strip away essential protections and provisions in the contract like overtime, seniority, pay scales, job descriptions, severance as well as limit the time and scope of issues members can grieve and  arbitrate, and more. The paltry offer of 2 percent raises, an increase to 401k and paid parental leave (by reducing sick time for everyone) is frankly insulting.  We are offended by their offer and we know many of you are too.

We’ve told them as much, now they need to hear it from you.

To show our disgust with their offer and our unity in fighting for a fair contract, we’re asking all members to wear your bright red BNG T-shirts on Tuesday. If you’re out of the office, drape it over your desk chair. After Tuesday, keep your shirts visible around the office.

If you don’t have a T-shirt already let us know and we’ll get you one by Monday. Boxes are on their way to State Street and Taunton so we can hand them out.

Also, please follow and stay tuned to the Guild’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

This is just a first step. More actions are being planned and we’ll send you information about those soon.

We need to show the company their proposal is unacceptable.

In Solidarity,
BNG Negotiating Committee & BNG Action Committee

Scott Steeves
Maria Cramer
Matt Rocheleau
Carrie Blazina
Christine Spaziano
Jenna Russell
Tim Flynn
Aimee Ortiz
Andy Rosen
Victoria McGrane
Stacey Myers

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Herald reporter suspended for violating social-media policy

Boston Herald reporter Chris Villani was given a three-day suspension for violating the paper’s social-media policy. According to Chris Sweeney of Boston magazine, Villani tweeted out some breaking news on the Aaron Hernandez case without first seeking permission from the higher-ups. (Note: This post has now been updated with a message to the staff by Herald publisher Pat Purcell and a response to Purcell by the Newspaper Guild. Just keep scrolling.)

A number of Herald reporters are boycotting Twitter in response to Villani’s punishment. Here’s a statement from the union that represents Herald employees:

The policy is the policy. But having to get permission from a top editor before tweeting seems unworkable for a news organization hoping to make an impact in the digital space.

Adam Vaccaro of The Boston Globe has more. An interesting side note: Herald editor Joe Sciacca declined to comment to the Globe even after providing a rather fulsome statement to Boston magazine.

Update: Herald publisher Pat Purcell has weighed in.

Update II: The Newspaper Guild has now responded to Purcell.

Guild members are grateful to Pat Purcell for keeping the Boston Herald alive and thriving during a difficult time for the newspaper industry. We respect his leadership and his decades of experience.

No one is more concerned with matters of reputation and accuracy than his Guild employees. After all, our names go on the stories; our reputations are on the line if any of the information is wrong. The same holds true for our social media accounts, where our names, pictures, and occupations accompany every single post. We are well aware that if we were to use social media recklessly, we would lose the trust both of sources who help us do our jobs as well as our readers.

We agree with Pat that there is a need for a policy, but we have deep reservations about certain aspects that Herald Media Inc. has incorporated into its policy. In our view, the response our members have expressed about this recent enforcement is an opportunity to open the door to discuss making changes.

We remain committed to providing Boston Herald readers with the best quality journalism in the city and look forward to speaking with him.

The Guild

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Your Saturday media round-up

No, not the debut of a new feature. But there’s a lot going on today. So let’s get to it.

• Jason Rezaian is coming home. Rezaian, who’s a Washington Post reporter, is being released by Iran along with three other prisoners as part of a swap. Meanwhile, Iran is moving closer to compliance with the nuclear deal, and, as we know, it returned without incident a group of American sailors who had drifted into its territorial waters even as the Republican presidential candidates were calling for war or something.

What President Obama’s critics refuse to acknowledge is that Iran is complicated, factionalized, and slowly lurching toward better (not good) behavior. Obama has invested a considerable amount of his moral authority into trying to nudge along a less dangerous Iran, and his efforts are paying off.

And kudos to Post executive editor Marty Baron, who has kept the spotlight on Rezaian’s unjust imprisonment for the past year and a half.

• The routes are at the root. Boston Globe reporter Mark Arsenault today has the most thorough examination yet of what went wrong with the Globe‘s home-delivery system when it switched vendors at the end of December. Arsenault takes a tough look at the decisions made by the paper’s business executives, who clearly did not do enough vetting of the plans put together by the new vendor, ACI Media Group. And he opens with Globe publisher John Henry amid thousands of undelivered papers at the Newton distribution center, sending a message that, yes, the owner is engaged.

As has been reported previously, but not in as much detail as Arsenault offers, ACI’s routes just didn’t make sense. And what looked like a mere glitch at the end of day one turned into a catastrophe as drivers walked off the job once they realized there was no way they could make their appointed rounds.

It’s the Globe itself that has to take primary responsibility, of course. But based on Arsenault’s report, ACI officials—who did not speak to him—clearly sold the Globe a bill of goods. If ACI has a different perspective on what happened, we’d like to hear it soon.

• Digital First workers revolt. Employees at Digital First Media are fighting for their first raise in seven to 10 years, according to an announcement by workers represented by the Newspaper Guild. These folks have been abused for years by bad ownership as hedge funds have sought to cash in.

The effort covers some 1,000 Guild members. It’s unclear whether employees at non-Guild papers—including the Lowell Sun and the New Haven Register—would be helped.

Memo Friday I: Herald editorial workers approve contract

The word went out Thursday evening: after months of negotiations, union editorial employees at the Boston Herald approved a new contract, while commercial employees rejected it:

And here is a copy of an email to those editorial employees from Herald staffer and Newspaper Guild official Bill Brotherton, which begins with a statement from John Flinn, the union’s vice president of human resources:

The Boston Herald is very pleased that the Company and the Union have come to an agreement on the Editorial contract following 18 very difficult and protracted negotiating sessions. We thank the Editorial Bargaining Committee for their time and effort and the Editorial Union members for ratifying the agreement. We are very disappointed that the Commercial Guild members rejected our best and final contract offer.

The email continues:

And now, a word from your negotiating committee: Thanks again to everyone who voted and those who assisted the negotiating team with tireless behind-the-scenes efforts. It is much appreciated. Laurel [Sweet], Jim [Lazar], Brian [Whelan] and I give you our heartfelt thanks.

We will continue to support our Commercial brothers and sisters as they resume negotiations; here’s hoping the company is reasonable and bends a little. Commercial members took a 10 percent pay cut and were hit with 5 unpaid furlough days in the last contract; they expected that all or some of that would have been returned this time around. More givebacks were unacceptable; that is why Commercial rejected the tentative agreement.

And even though we in Editorial have a new contract in place, there are many other issues in our workplace that must be addressed and dealt with. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm, commitment and activism shown by all of you during the last 15 months; our union local is stronger than it has been in a long time.

And now that I’m 62 years old, I’m looking for volunteers to play a larger role in union activities. I expect to be involved and here at the Herald for many years to come, but the time is now to train and prepare the next generation of union leaders, to take part in grievance procedures and learn how to keep the company honest. There’s no money involved and it’s a thankless job, but it is rewarding and well worth the time. It’s very easy to become a shop steward, and the Newspaper Guild offers seminars online, in Washington, D.C., and TNG officers are more than willing to come to Boston to teach Union 101 classes and show us the ropes. If interested, please let me know.
Again, thank you all for your support and patience.

Bill

Earlier: Guild reaches tenative agreement with Herald.

Guild reaches tentative agreement with Herald

The Newspaper Guild and Boston Herald management have reached agreement on a new two-year contract, according to a copy of an email sent to Media Nation. Members of the Guild will vote next Thursday, with union leadership recommending approval.

The vote comes after some turmoil earlier this year, when the Herald’s editorial and commercial employees voted against accepting management’s offer.

I’ve attached a PDF of the agreement. The new language comes at the end. What’s striking — though not surprising — is the flat acknowledgment by John Flinn, vice president of human resources, that all is not well at the Herald. In a letter to Brian Whelan, president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston, Flinn writes that both sides “have recognized the deteriorating economic trends in the newspaper industry and at the Boston Herald, particularly advertising revenue and circulation, which continue to decline and disappoint.”

Of course, it’s in management’s best interest to paint as dark a picture as possible. Still, it’s undeniably true that the newspaper business continues to struggle. And it must be particularly challenging to be one of the last number-two dailies in the country.

What follows is Herald union official Bill Brotherton’s message to his members.

A reminder that the Guild and the Herald have reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract. Voting will take place Thursday, Oct. 1, noon to 7 p.m. in the Record Room on the fifth floor. If you will not be here on Thursday, see Bill Brotherton or Jim Lazar for an absentee ballot.

The Guild Negotiating Team (Brian Whelan, Jim Lazar, Laurel Sweet and Bill Brotherton) is recommending a YES vote.

The committee got the Herald to scale back its attack on the severance (All Guild members currently employed by the Herald keep all severance earned to date, plus accumulates an additional week of severance each year up to a maximum of 62 weeks; future hires will get one week of severance per year up to a max of 26 weeks) and to delay the start date of reopening the contract in case of economic disaster to Feb. 1 (the company has said on the record it has no plans to reopen the contract unless the financial picture turns dire).

Attached is a copy of the tentative agreement. Current language is on top; new language is on the bottom. The language deletions are either elsewhere in the contract or are obsolete; both sides agreed to clean up the contract by eliminating old language.

Questions and comments/suggestions are encouraged.

Thank you for your support and patience.

Bill

Boston Herald lays off six, according to union

Update, July 27: Just got word that four, not six, Boston Herald employees were laid off last week, none in editorial.

Awful news coming out of the Boston Herald this afternoon. The Newspaper Guild tweets:

Herald commercial employees reject offer; Purcell responds

Labor and management continue to be far apart at the Boston Herald, as the Newspaper Guild reports that employees on the commercial side have rejected the company’s contract offer by a vote of 35 to 12. This follows last week’s 32-26 no vote by editorial employees. The Guild tweets:

The Guild also tweeted a copy of a statement by Herald publisher Pat Purcell, which reads in full:

We are disappointed that the Boston Herald Commercial and Editorial units of The Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston failed to ratify new collective bargaining agreements. We have been, and will continue to be, negotiating in good faith. We look forward to the next round of discussion, and hope it results in a fair and equitable outcome.

Earlier: Boston Herald editorial employees reject contract.

About those Herald parking and medical fees

If you were surprised to learn from the Newspaper Guild announcement that Boston Herald employees pay $190 a month for parking, here’s a bit of background. The fee was imposed in 2011, when the paper moved from the South End to the Seaport District.

“Free parking in Boston is a rarity,” Herald publisher Pat Purcell wrote to his staff at the time, “and, sadly, there will not be free parking for any employee — myself included — when we move to the Seaport Center.” The former Herald property is being transformed into a luxury mixed-use development known as the Ink Block, and Purcell is one of the investors. So I’m guessing Purcell can afford parking.

As for the 93 percent of health-insurance costs that union employees have to pay, the Herald has long been notorious for its low medical benefits — although it sounds like it’s gotten worse since the 1980s, when Ed Cafasso was one of the political reporters.

“Employee share of healthcare has to be the highest in the state among white collar employers,” tweeted Cafasso, now a public relations consultant. “You’d be better off in the ACA!”

Finally: I posted the union’s statement because it was sent to me. If Herald management wants to send out its own statement, I’d be happy to post that too.