Executive Committee Meeting Minutes: Jan. 11, 2022

President Sandra Tan called the executive committee meeting to order by Zoom at 5:01 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

Motion/Second/Carried Besecker/Sommer to approve the Dec. 8 general membership and executive committee meeting minutes.

Tan noted this is Scott Scanlon’s first meeting as vice president of grievances and contract compliance.

Grievance Committee Report

The Guild is looking for a nightside editorial steward as well as an inside circulation steward, Scanlon said.

One issue, according to Scanlon, is the publication of non-editorial, or advertorial content, posted on The News’ website without being labeled as such. Much of it is content from Buffalo magazine that appears to be regular editorial content, Scanlon said, and the Guild will send a letter to News management asking that it be labeled as advertorial content.

Another problem, Scanlon said, is The News sharing, through Twitter and on our home page, sports stories or lists of sports stories that include advertorial pieces promoting sports betting. A number of sports reporters have flagged this as an issue. The Guild will file a formal grievance arguing this is a violation of the contract, Scanlon said, and it needs to be properly labeled. Beyond that, Editorial delegate Mike Harrington said, this is bad journalism.

Finally, there’s a longstanding grievance within inside circulation involving a manager who is a former Guild member who continues to perform Guild work. Scanlon and Administrative Officer Kim Leiser will meet with people in that department, including management, to discuss the next steps.

Mobilization Committee Report

Vice President Mobilization Aaron Besecker noted the latest Frontier Reporter was published. It’s available on the Guild website in PDF format, members should have received an email with a link to the publication and it’s posted on Guild bulletin boards at The News and distributed to district manager offices. The next one will come out in about three months in the spring, Besecker said.

Besecker said he’s setting up the ability to get news out to members via text message. The Guild needs to be choosy in when it uses this option, he said, and it will give members the chance to opt out. A test of the system will come soon.

Besecker also said, as he takes over as mobilization VP, that he’s getting things cleaned up with the Guild website, the mailing list and in other areas.

He said mobilizing efforts opposing the Alden Global Capital purchase offer for Lee Enterprises are on hiatus. Not much has happened since late December, when the Lee board rejected the Alden purchase offer and Alden said it would sue as a result. However, Tan said, the union chapters at various Lee papers have a good plan in place if and when Alden’s takeover effort is revived.

President’s Report

Tan gave an update on the health challenges that two Guild members are facing. This includes Editorial member and sports reporter Miguel Rodriguez, whose family asked for prayers on his behalf.

Pre-press needs to come up with a meeting date for contract negotiations, which resume this year, Tan said.

Old Business

Leiser said the Guild’s recently approved contract with Lee began printing the afternoon of Jan. 11. She doesn’t know when printing will be finished.

Tan praised Leiser and Diana Gawron for carefully checking the full text of the contract, line by line, prior to production.

Tan said Guild holiday cards will be mailed out soon. The Guild has received Happy New Year cards featuring the Guild logo. Each card will contain a Tops Markets gift card and a Guild-branded face mask, which also are finally finished. Leiser will stuff the envelopes to get them ready for mailing out soon.

New Business

Tan led a discussion of the meeting dates for the rest of 2022 for the general membership and executive committee. The next executive committee meeting is Feb. 7. The committee also is scheduled to meet March 7, April 18, May 9, June 6, July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 12, Oct. 10, Nov. 7 and Dec. 12. General membership meetings are set for March 9, June 8 and Sept. 14.

M/S/C Besecker/Scanlon to approve the meeting schedule for the year.

Tan then reiterated that Guild members were required to submit proof of their vaccination status to The News and Lee. Failure to submit proof will be treated by the company as the employee being unvaccinated. Whenever the vaccination requirement goes into effect, Tan said, unvaccinated employees will be required to be tested weekly for Covid-19, with the cost of the testing borne by the company. Tan noted Guild employees will not be punished for being unvaccinated and the vaccine information provided by employees will be stored on a secure server. The testing must be observed by a company employee and can’t be done off site, she said.

Treasurer/Typographical nightside steward Hilary Osborn asked whether Guild employees who are required to come into the building who have a question about exposure to Covid-19 could avail themselves of the free testing The News is offering. Leiser will check with News management on this question.

Tan said a Guild local in Chicago has approached Leiser and the Buffalo Newspaper Guild to see if Leiser can perform some bookkeeping work for that local, which recently eliminated its office manager position. Leiser said the work should require five to 10 hours per week initially and then maybe two to five hours per week after that once she gets things organized.

Leiser would complete her Buffalo Guild responsibilities first and then perform Chicago Guild work, with Chicago reimbursing Buffalo for Leiser’s time.

If Leiser can’t complete Chicago work during her regularly scheduled hours, Chicago would pay her overtime. Leiser said there only have been preliminary discussions so far. Tan said her main concern, for the everyone’s sake, is to see a written agreement drafted and approved.

M/S/C Tan/Watson to tentatively allow this shared-services arrangement to move forward.

Tan proposed sending a care package of food to Rodriguez’s family. M/S/C Besecker/Sommer to approve spending up to $200 on this delivery.

Leiser went through the list of vacancies on the executive committee. Leiser said there’s room for one more typographical member, another district manager member, another inside circulation member, another ABC member and another nightside editorial steward, although Mike Pesarchick who retired Dec. 31, will come back part-time later in January until his replacement is hired and agreed to fill that position in the meantime.

Some will be hard to fill, though Scanlon’s editorial delegate vacancy on the committee will be filled by former Mobilization Vice President Rachel Lenzi.

“We need to start getting some depth to our bench,” Leiser said.

Tan said she is looking for active participation from more members. Tan said she feels the clock ticking because she is in her last year as Guild president and all officer positions are up for election this year, so recruiting is a priority for her.

The committee engaged in discussion of potential or actual retirements among Guild members. Pesarchick raised a question about how The News calculated his pension, saying they relied on base salary instead of gross pay, leaving his anticipated pension payment lower than it should be because it didn’t take into account years when he regularly earned overtime. Tan and Leiser shared his concern about it. Pesarchick said he wondered how many other people are affected and said he would be following up on it.

Tan adjourned the meeting at 6:05 p.m.

Attendance: President Sandy Tan, Secretary Steve Watson, Vice President Mobilization Aaron Besecker, Vice President Contract Administration Scott Scanlon, Sun Newspapers co-steward James Farrell, Editorial delegate Mike Harrington, Editorial delegate Mark Sommer, Administrative Officer Kim Leiser, Editorial nightside steward Mike Pesarchick, Editorial delegate David Robinson, Treasurer/Typographical nightside steward Hilary Osborn.

Excused: Circulation steward Sophia Canahai, District Manager alternate delegate Bob Snyder.

Absent: Typographical nightside steward Mark Hanover, Sun co-steward Francesca Bond, ABC steward Alva Hill, Editorial delegate Rachel Lenzi, District Manager steward Joan Portman.