Guild members approve agreement to allow furloughs

Buffalo Newspaper Guild members voted 65-2 Friday in favor of a tentative agreement that will allow Buffalo News management to furlough Guild members across the board, for the first time.

The approval of the agreement reflects member support for a plan the Guild bargaining team devised, which mitigates financial losses to members with little-to-no cost to the company. It also reflects the mutual concern of both management and the Guild about the paper’s financial state.

“This is a sad time for the Guild,” said President Sandy Tan. “This agreement will help protect our members financially, but the furloughs will do nothing but damage the paper’s ability to continue producing outstanding, critical, and even life-saving journalism at a time when it’s needed most.”

In exchange for The News meeting the Guild bargaining team’s requirements that it mitigate financial hardship for members, we met our commitment to engage in intense-but-swift negotiations. The bargaining team and Executive Committee brought forward the tentative agreement for a membership vote quickly enough to enable the company to begin scheduling furloughs next week.

The agreement will allow all Guild members in Editorial/Sun, Accounting, Inside Circulation and District Managers to be furloughed for two weeks between Monday and June 28.

Two key elements played a role in the ratification of the tentative agreement:

  • The availability of enhanced unemployment benefits being offered in New York State, as part of the federal stimulus package, that will enable many Guild members to suffer no loss of pay.
  • The willingness of The News to allocate money to help bridge the gap between what higher-paid Guild members would receive in unemployment and what they would have received in their regular paychecks.

The $12,500 pool of funds will be created, in part, by allowing some Guild members in Editorial to volunteer for an additional week of furlough. The savings from the additional week will be redistributed as income to other Guild members facing an income loss. The Guild estimates that money will cover about half the difference between unemployment income and lost wages for affected Guild members.

The agreement also ensures that all other Guild employee benefits will be unaffected.

Aside from Tan, the bargaining team included Vice President Aaron Besecker, Secretary Keith McShea, Typographical Steward Karen Hipp and Guild Administrator Kim Leiser.

“These furloughs will create working hardships on everyone at the paper,” Tan said. “Staffing is already thin across departments, so those of us taking up the slack for absent colleagues will bear heavy burdens. With the coronavirus threat continuing to grow, we need the community to recognize how important the local journalism we produce really is.”

The Guild will be engaging in acts of solidarity on social media to help drive home this point to the community. Watch your email for more on this in the coming days and check in at