Executive Committee Meeting Minutes September 2021

President Sandy Tan called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, on Zoom.

Tan noted Keith McShea vacated the Guild secretary’s position. Tan nominated Steve Watson from Editorial to fill the position for the remainder of McShea’s term, which runs through December 2022. There were no other nominations for the post. Motion/Second/Carried Tan/Besecker to approve Watson’s appointment as secretary. Tan welcomed Watson to Guild leadership.

M/S/C Leiser/Pesarchick to approve the minutes of the April 14 executive committee and the April 28 general membership meetings. 

M/S/C Leiser/Sommer to approve the minutes of the May 17 executive committee and May 19 general membership meetings.

Tan said the executive committee still is waiting to receive the minutes of the June and July meetings from its former secretary.

New Business

Tan addressed two new, part-time work agreements in Editorial with former, full-time Guild members Sean Kirst and Lou Michel. Generally speaking, Tan said, the Guild objects to allowing a full-time Editorial member to work on a part-time basis unless the member retires first.

Tan then asked for the executive committee’s approval of the two Editorial agreements. Administrative Officer Kim Leiser noted the two deals are done already. Tan then asked for the Guild’s support of the Kirst and Michel agreements. M/S/C Sommer/Scanlon to endorse the two agreements.

Tan said the Western New York Communication Workers of America Council has asked the Guild to support a golf tournament that provides funding for its E.J. Mays Scholarship Fund. M/S/C Tan/Lenzi to approve spending $200 for the tournament.

Tan said it’s a tradition that whenever Guild members receive raises or signing bonuses in a contract, the Guild’s administrative officer is granted the same raises and bonus. M/S/C Tan/Besecker to grant Leiser a 2% raise and $1,000 signing bonus in line with the terms of the new Guild contract.

For a number of reasons, the CWA sector convention planned for Oct. 16 in New Orleans will be held as a virtual event instead of an in-person gathering, Tan said. Leiser is a delegate to the convention. Now that it is a virtual program, Tan sought approval to participate. M/S/C Besecker/Hanover approved Tan’s participation in the virtual convention.

Tan noted the Guild has been setting meeting dates one month at a time for much of this past year. Tan proposed setting executive committee meetings for Oct. 12, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8 with a general membership meeting on Oct. 13. M/S/C Osborn/Gawron to approve the four meeting dates.

The executive committee then discussed the Guild’s proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. 

Leiser provided an overview of what was budgeted for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which concludes at the end of September; what has been spent to date; and what is budgeted for the new fiscal year.

This leaves the Guild with total investments of about $1.4 million and a bank balance of $136,000, Leiser said.

The finance committee approved a $176,827.04 budget and recommended the full executive committee approve it for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

M/S/C Watson/Scanlon to approve the budget and explore options for the Guild’s bank balance.

The 18-month contract the Guild negotiated on behalf of the 10 members of the Typographical Unit will expire at the end of 2021, Tan said. Those negotiations also will start soon and the bargaining team includes Tan, Leiser, Typographical dayside steward Hilary Osborn and Typographical nightside steward Mark Hanover. M/S/C Besecker/Gawron to approve the members of the bargaining team (as a contingency vote in case Tan can’t, on her own authority, appoint those members).

Grievance Committee Report

Vice President/Grievances Aaron Besecker said the Guild has one outstanding grievance, dating back to March, in Inside Circulation, that officers thought would be addressed in bargaining but it wasn’t.

The Guild is in the process of setting up a meeting with the company to discuss the situation, Besecker said. Some of it involves work that, due to Covid-19, the Guild allowed management to perform, but now that people are back in the office there’s no reason for this to continue, Besecker said.

This is the only open grievance, as far as Besecker knows.

Mobilization Committee Report

Vice President/Mobilization Rachel Lenzi reviewed the Guild’s efforts to use social media as part of its contract mobilization efforts. She said, within our membership, there was a good amount of engagement in the campaign, especially within Editorial, when it came to sharing posts and changing avatars. She noted 1,800 people signed the Guild’s petition and the Guild website got a lot of traffic, as well. She said paying to boost the Guild’s Facebook posts helped them reach a wider audience, while doing the same with Twitter posts didn’t have a similar return on investment. This is a lesson learned for the next campaign, Lenzi said. This was a challenging mobilization effort because, for much of it, Guild members couldn’t be together, she said.

Lenzi also noted the good turnout for the Guild picnic at Como Lake Park. This prompted discussion of whether to have another Guild happy hour at some point in the future.

Tan then noted 12 active Guild members participated in the Labor Day parade in South Buffalo. This number doesn’t count the retirees and children of members who took part.

Leiser said, compared to recent parades, this was a good turnout.

Tan said the turnout was disappointing given the Guild’s efforts during the contract mobilization campaign to build stronger ties with the wider community. Lenzi suggested reinforcing this point at the next general membership meeting.

Tan then asked about the status of the Frontier Reporter. Lenzi asked if the Reporter must be distributed in print form or if an electronic version is sufficient. Leiser said the Guild bylaws state the Reporter must be printed. Tan asked who had helped former Reporter editor Colin Dabkowski design the publication. Leiser said it was Editorial members Ellen Przepasniak and Christina Wilemski. Tan said she would contact Przepasniak and she and Lenzi would prepare a plan for the Reporter in time for the next executive committee meeting.

Tan also noted the Guild spent $25,000 on mobilization efforts this year, “which, for us, is a stunning amount of money.” The last time the Guild spent this much, about a decade ago, the organization had applied for a grant from the CWA, Tan said.

Besecker added a thought on mobilizing, asking whether it would be better for messengers to try to reach the members of their messenger lists through mass text messages instead of by email. Tan thought this might be a good idea but she and Besecker wondered about the logistics of it. Osborn said she’s gotten some mass texts from retail stores and the American Civil Liberties Union but she wonders, with the rise of spam calls and spam texts, whether Guild texts could make their way to members.

“That could have mixed results,” Osborn said.

“It could be an opt-in thing,” Tan said, with Lenzi agreeing it would be worth asking members to opt in to Guild messages. Leiser said the CWA regularly sends out political text messages.

Tan asked Leiser, Lenzi and Besecker to explore the Guild’s use of text messages.

Finance Committee Report

See the earlier budget discussion. Nothing else reported.

President’s Report

Tan said the company is bringing Liku Gao, a page designer, back as a temporary Guild member in Editorial. 

“There’s a lot going on on the hiring front,” Tan said. She noted Jon Harris would join the business desk in Editorial. Watson said Harris is set to start Sept. 27, likely as the business of health care reporter.

Another full-time hire in Inside Circulation is coming, Tan said, along with some part-time district managers.

And Tan said she understands the company soon will adopt the IVR phone system, which should help employees better handle the many calls coming in from unhappy customers.

The signing bonuses included in the newly approved contract should reach members in October, Tan said. They amount to $500 for part-time members and $1,000 for full-time members.

Leiser read a thank you note from the family of Eugene McShea, the late father of former Guild Secretary Keith McShea, for a $75 charitable donation the Guild made in his memory.

Old Business

The ratification vote for the new contract was 76-1.

Leiser said the Guild has spent about $21,000 on lost time, which is money the Guild pays to reimburse The News when employees spend work hours in bargaining instead of their News duties. This figure, Leiser said, only covers lost time through June 30 and does not include the final month of bargaining.

“So the total will be much higher,” Tan said.

Leiser updated the executive committee on the audit into the finances of the Typographical Unit performed by the state Department of Labor focusing on the unit’s final year of existence before its union merged with the Guild. The audit was prompted by failures to file some reports on time and discrepancies within those reports, Leiser said. The filing of a terminal report brought the audit to completion, Leiser said, and all matters regarding the former typographical union are finished.

Tan adjourned the meeting at 7:12 p.m.

Attendance: President Sandy Tan, Vice President/Grievances Aaron Besecker, Vice President/Mobilization Rachel Lenzi, Treasurer and Inside Circulation steward Diana Gawron, Secretary Steve Watson, Administrative Officer Kim Leiser, District Manager steward Joan Portman, Typographical dayside steward Hilary Osborn, Typographical nightside steward Mark Hanover, Editorial delegate Mark Sommer, Editorial delegate Scott Scanlon, ABC steward Alva Hill, Editorial delegate Dave Robinson, Editorial nightside steward Mike Pesarchick.

Excused: Past President Phil Fairbanks, Sun Newspapers co-steward James Farrell.

Absent: Sun co-steward Francesca Bond, District Manager alternate delegate Bob Snyder, District Manager delegate Latrice Carr, Editorial delegate Mike Harrington, Editorial alternate delegate Jeff Miers.