Guild proposes two-year diversity fellowship; other proposals made by the Guild remain in limbo

4.16.21 – To assist with company efforts to diversify The Buffalo News, the Guild this week proposed a two-year diversity fellowship program for the newsroom aimed at developing journalists of color who have limited journalism experience.

Meanwhile, the Guild continues to wait on responses from The News/Lee Enterprises on numerous other proposals, including those involving digital jurisdiction and the transparent labeling of online sponsored content and other news stories.

The goal of the proposed diversity fellowship program would be to find and cultivate journalism talent and skills, creating a pipeline of well-qualified, potential hires to diversify the company’s newsroom ranks and improve community coverage.

Priority consideration would be given to local and upstate residents with diverse backgrounds. A hiring committee that includes employees of color would make hiring recommendations.

Diversity fellows would join the Guild but be considered probationary employees for the duration of their fellowship. Once the fellowship is completed, The News could offer participants full-time reporting positions at The Buffalo News or Sun papers. If hired, fellowship participants would be credited with all prior Guild time worked.

Support from foundations, nonprofits and other private businesses would be sought to help cover the stipends and wages for fellowship participants. The fellowship could not be used to hire diversity candidates with the qualifications and experience to be considered for regular newsroom employment.

To date, the company has not offered meaningful responses to any newsroom-specific proposals made by the Guild. The company did offer a package counterproposal that would eliminate interest-free car loans for district managers and newsroom photographers and give district managers more work responsibilities related to dealer contracts.

The proposal would provide a raise for part-time district managers in anticipation of part-timers taking on more responsibilities. However, the company also intends to downsize its number of part-time DMs. The company proposal includes a “buyout” proposal equal to the severance pay already in the contract. The proposal also would deny separation pay to part-time DMs who refuse any company offer of full-time employment or any change/increase to their part-time hours. This led the Guild bargaining team to ask if the company understands what the meaning of a “buyout offer” is.

The company continues to seek a cut in the employee mileage reimbursement rate, which would financially harm many Guild members who are district managers, reporters and photographers.

The bargaining team met last week with Inside Circulation and Accounting employees to discuss company outsourcing proposals. Bargaining will resume the week of April 26.