Two-year Guild contract secured after 10 months of negotiations

On Thursday, April 20, Guild members voted overwhelmingly to ratify a two-year contract with The Buffalo News, concluding one of the longer and more unorthodox periods of bargaining in recent Guild history.

During 10 months of negotiations, the bargaining team took a methodical and systematic approach against a series of harsh proposals from The News. Most notably, they poured hundreds of hours into a series of attempts to save the Classified Advertising department that ultimately came up short.

However, in an industry and company experiencing worrying declines in print advertising revenue, the team secured the continuation of affordable health insurance for members as well as our first raise in more than seven years. The first phase of that raise began appearing in members’ paychecks in late April, and the second will take effect Aug. 1. 

“This tentative agreement not only ensures across-the-board raises for all Guild members, but keeps health insurance contributions to under 10 percent,” said Guild President Sandy Tan. “Those who sign up for less costly health care options next year will still find themselves with fully covered health care and more money in the bank.
A recap of the highlights of the agreement:

• Wages: All bargaining unit employees will receive a total of 2.5 percent raise, with 1.5 percent now in effect and another percent kicking in on Aug. 1.

• Health insurance: Members will pay 9 percent of the Guild base 20/20 plan in 2018. They may also buy down to two cheaper plans that will leave them with more money in their paycheck: the Guild 20/40 plan, which comes with high co-payments, or a high-deductible plan.

• Classified Advertising: Despite the bargaining team’s best efforts, the Guild agreed to allow the subcontracting of the department. The News has agreed to provide 52 weeks of severance pay and a year of health insurance to former department employees.

• Diversity: The News agreed to form a committee to discuss issues and initiatives involving workplace diversity, and to bring recommendations and concerns to the attention of management.

During the negotiations, the Guild held dozens of mobilization activities, events and digital outreach efforts, each of which was crucial to putting pressure on The News and keeping our contract fight in the public eye.

Among the most successful mobilization efforts were our various T-shirt days, our silent marches through the building, our outdoor rally and the heartfelt (and sometimes righteously angry) notes members sent to management during Thanksgiving week and in the form of new year’s resolutions.

In addition, the Guild’s social media campaigns reached many thousands of readers. Highlights of that effort included a series of Guild member profiles featuring photographs by Derek Gee; a weekly Twitter campaign that received hundreds of retweets; a mini-site featuring our public message and a compilation of video testimonials; and the Guild’s first foray onto Instagram.

“While each mobilization event on its own might seem minor, they add up to an impressive demonstration of solidarity,” said Guild Vice President for Mobilization Colin Dabkowski. “Those actions send a powerful signal to management – and the community – about how seriously our members take our jobs and our mission. And they offer a taste of the collective strength our members possess.”

Because bargaining went on for so long, our contract only runs through the end of July 2018. For that reason, Guild leadership will soon be preparing for the next round of negotiations by assembling a bargaining team in the fall. In an effort to avoid a similar situation as this year, negotiations are slated to begin early in 2018.