April 2011: Guild local minutes

President Henry Davis called the meeting to order at 5:37 p.m, April 13, 2011 at One News Plaza, first-floor auditorium.

Meyer/Tan Motion/Second/Carried to approve the meeting minutes as published at buffaloguild.org.

Henry Davis provided an update on bargaining, including the Guild’s Bargaining Committee’s recommendation, approved by the Executive Committee, to propose an extension of the current contract.

Davis said it is an attempt to be helpful and proactive, and one in which the benefits would include avoiding a management-labor fight at a critical time in our industry and our newspaper.

“With the industry in turmoil, we believe that we’re a lot better off trying to improve the products and services we offer. … Nothing can be gained by long labor dispute. … We are also undergoing major changes in the newsroom, including new leadership and a transition to a universal reporting pool. It’s a perfect time to be focused inside the newsroom and what we need to be successful rather than out on the street protesting and spending time on fight.

“We wanted to set the tone. It’s s sensible and modest proposal.”

Davis on the health care clause in the current contract, in which employees would take on 5 percent of health care costs in the event of the current contract expiring: “We feel this is terribly unfair. If you look at the numbers, before the end of the decade, most of an employees’ take home pay will go to health insurance — and that’s if healthy care premiums are better. We don’t feel that’s it’s right that people would be spending that much.

“It also speaks to our sense of professional identity. What kind of place do we work in? How are we going to keep people, or attract talented people to our newspaper, by not offering people more in pay than the poverty level?”

In response to a question regarding health care costs and the thought that all obvious savings have already been made, Davis said: “We’ve been escaping the 5 percent clause for a long time -– every time we’ve gotten around it. We’ve found the increase and saved the same amount — for the company, that has always been the measuring stick.

“There’s nothing easy to do anymore. Only things left, are to significantly raise co-pays or deductibles — and to do that we would do it in a way that is least injurious to folks as possible.”

Davis/Fairbanks M/S/C to approve the proposal by the Executive Committee that the Guild offer the company a proposal to extend the current contract by two years with small salary increases, which the Guild would consider taking in lump sums, and the Guild will work cooperatively to reduce health care premiums — as it has consistently done through the years — and work cooperatively to fashion separation agreements with the longest-tenured editorial members.

Sandy Tan provided a review of the guild survey results via power point.

Committee reports:

Grievance Committee

Two Guild grievances are headed for arbitration.

The first has to do with The News’ use of stringers and freelancers in the newsroom. The focus of the grievance is the company’s use of stringers to cover school boards in Niagara County previously covered by Guild members.

Guild members approved moving the grievance to arbitration last year and the local is currently seeking approval from our parent union’s Legal Services Department to act as counsel during the arbitration.

The second arbitration deals with the termination of a Guild member in editorial. The grievance is based on the company’s refusal to follow progressive discipline in addressing the actions of a 28-year Guild member with an otherwise clean record.

The Guild also is dealing with two other departmental issues that have not reached the grievance level.

One has to do with vacation scheduling in the accounting department and the other deals with how Guild members in circulation were paid during the New Years Day holiday weekend.

Mobilization Committee

* Nine members of the Mobilization Committee participated in an energizing afternoon-long training session, led by Marian Needham and Tammy Turnbull. Phil Fairbanks offered the committee a historical perspective on past mobilization efforts that have been successful, and Henry Davis shared his thoughts on the need to mobilize around the issue of health care coverage.

Committee members then began brainstorming on mobilization campaign ideas and a drew up a list of research needs. The entire group found the training session worthwhile and plans to meet again in a second session to filter through ideas and work on concrete mobilization plans.

* Magnets with contact information for Guild leaders are out. More are available to anyone who’d like one.

* The 2011 Guild survey is complete. Separate report finished and ready to distribute. We had a solid response rate from Guild membership. Thanks to the Guild messengers for all their hard work in distributing and collecting the surveys.

New member: Vincent Sherry (editorial).

Tan/Gryta M/S/C to adjourn at 5:59 p.m.

Attendance: President Henry Davis, Vice President Phil Fairbanks, Vice President Sandy Tan, Secretary Keith McShea, Jim Heaney, at-large delegate Tammy Turnbull, Dick Baldwin, Trey Bankhead, Carol Jones, Brian Meyer, Aaron Besecker, Geoff Nason, Denise Gee, Dan Kirchberger, Sharon Cantillon, Scott Scanlon, Jim Staas, Kevin Doherty, Matt Gryta, Bruce Andriatch.