Guild executive committee meeting minutes: Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021

President Sandy Tan called the meeting to order at 5:06 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 via Zoom.

Motion/Second/Carried Portman/Fairbanks to approve the minutes for both the executive and general meetings for November.

Grievance Committee Report

Vice President for Contract Enforcement Aaron Besecker said the grievance committee approved a grievance regarding the labeling of sponsored content. This sponsored content grievance is similar to the one filed by the Guild in October (which was rejected by News on basis of the language relative to online content vs. print), but this grievance is being filed under the journalistic standards clause.

Past President Phil Fairbanks said the journalistic standards clause has been invoked many times by the Guild during discussions with management on a variety of issues, but he could not remember a time in which it has been cited in a grievance.

Besecker provided an update on the grievance regarding the collection, editing and “cleanup” work that was part of daily pagination clerk shifts in the sports department. Following the buyout of four sports clerks and the reassignment of another, that work is now being done out of the Lee Design Center in Roanoke, Va.

The grievance was filed on Dec. 14. A meeting between the Guild and The News was held on Jan. 6, including Tan, Besecker, Administrative Officer Kim Leiser, Secretary Keith McShea and The News’ Tammy Turnbull and Margaret Kenny.

Besecker said the company has not made a decision about what to do with the grievance.

He said the grievance committee and Guild officers believe the Guild has a very strong grievance. He said the Guild warned The News about this situation ahead of time.

M/S/C Besecker/Fairbanks that the Guild spend up to $1,000 in attorney’s fees if The News formally rejects the sports pagination clerk grievance and if Marion Needham of The Newspaper Guild endorses moving forward with the grievance.

The motion passed unanimously.

Other committee members strongly agreed with the grievance because of the concern that The News could possibly attempt similar moves in other departments.

Besecker said the committee is monitoring a situation in Inside Circulation regarding jurisdiction; a member who was hired by management is apparently performing the same job duties they did as a Guild member.

He said a similar grievance was filed in October regarding ABC.

Mobilization Committee Report

Vice President for Communication and Mobilization Rachel Lenzi said plans are in the works for the start of bargaining.

Possible ideas included a “care package” of items for members which would include things like yard signs, face masks, buttons, lanyards and/or window clings.

“Protect Local Journalism” is a working title for the effort.

Tan noted that this effort could be a costly one, but that this is an issue in which the Guild should tap into its defense fund if necessary.

M/S/C Lenzi/Snyder to transfer $8,000 into the workplace strategies fund for mobilization efforts.

The motion passed unanimously.

Bargaining may begin the second week of February, Tan said. Lenzi said a social media effort will align with the start of negotiations.

President’s report 

Tan discussed the federal government’s new PPP program and how many newspapers are eligible for it; Sen. Chuck Schumer will be holding a video call with newspaper personnel on Wednesday. Tan asks if anyone would like to attend the meeting; Editorial Delegate Mark Sommer will do so.

Sandy mentioned the Guild did have a nice mentorship program going with the Sun Papers, but the program will continue to benefit the remaining Sun employees.

Old business 

Tan provided a brief bargaining update. She said that an initial off-the-record meeting with The News was scheduled for Wednesday, and that the meeting may help the Guild’s preparations for negotiations. The full bargaining team is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the Guild’s potential proposals; the digital jurisdiction committee has met and will be meeting again next week.

New business 

Tan discussed The Sun papers, which will see the Twin City and Lancaster/Depew Suns closing on Jan. 22 as well as the merging of the Orchard Park and West Seneca papers. The move resulted in the layoff of two Guild part-time reporters and one Guilld full-time designer; one of the Sun editors being let go as well, Tan said. Tan said Sun management had considered laying off another part-time Sun reporter, but the Guild pointed out that the contract stated that layoffs had to go in order of seniority, so that reporter was not laid off.

Tan said she thought she was about to sneeze. But then she didn’t.

“Oh I want to sneeze. Hmm, I guess it’s not coming.”

Tan said the Sun closings are “really sad news for us. We had nine Guild members for the Suns. Now we are down to four.”

Tan said that New York State’s new sick leave law “will benefit Guild members.”

The law expands the time off employees can take and also expands the eligibility of those who can be cared for with sick time, and employers may not ask about the nature of the illness nor require medical attestation.

Leiser said “is an extreme expansion of what we can use our sick time for.”

Leiser told the committee about Teledoc, a telephone-based medical coverage system that is able to be used regardless of any medical insurance; it costs $57 per year, which covers members and dependents. The service, in which doctors can write prescriptions, is provided to all of Philadelphia Guild’s members.

Leiser said that the Philadelphia Guild said it cut down on its emergency room usage by $200,000 in the first year alone. Teledoc also has psychologists and mental health care available via phone.

Leiser thinks Teledoc is something the Guild should offer its members.

The Guild would pay the Philadelphia Guild $57 per member, per year. Leiser said if our Guild goes through Philadelphia, the cost would be $57, if not, the cost is much higher.

Leiser said being able to offer Teledoc to part-timers without any health care coverage would be “outstanding” and that she will be gathering more information about it. The committee agrees that this is something to consider. She said it could be “amazing” for Tonawanda News workers represented by The Guild.

The next executive meeting will not be scheduled due to the again-changing work schedule for Tan. “We will play it by year.”

Tan adjourned the meeting at 6:02 p.m.

Attendance: President Sandy Tan, Vice President/Grievances Aaron Besecker, Vice President/Mobilization Rachel Lenzi, Treasurer and Inside Circulation steward Diana Gawron, District Manager alternate delegate Bob Snyder, Secretary Keith McShea, Administrative Officer Kim Leiser, District Manager steward Joan Portman, Typographical dayside steward Hilary Osborn, Sun Papers steward Lian Bunny, Editorial delegate Mark Sommer, Past President Phil Fairbanks.

Excused: None.

Absent: District Manager delegate Latrice Carr, Typographical nightside steward Mark Hanover, Editorial nightside steward Mike Pesarchick, Editorial delegate Mike Harrington, Editorial delegate Scott Scanlon, Editorial alternate delegate Jeff Miers.