Facing a challenge, Times Guild members found strength in 2011
Times Guild members packed the Times Center shortly after management unveiled it's pay-freezing and benefit-slashing set of contract propoposals in the winter of 2011.
Unit Chair Grant Glickson’s year-end message
At the outset of 2011, the prospect of contentious contract negotiations promised to make this a difficult year for Guild members at The Times. But as we close out the year, challenging though it was, I believe we’re also seeing something else: a mobilized workforce that’s feeling its power and raising a unified voice.
For the first time in a long time, Times Guild members are taking a visible and active role in fighting for a fair contract. To be sure, we still have a long and probably difficult way to go before we reach an agreement to replace the one that expired in March. But we have shown that we’re engaged and united in purpose. Members made their presence known at a mass meeting at the Times Center and at other gatherings. They wore Guild buttons and stickers, circulated dozens of thought-provoking emails about negotiations and responded heavily to Guild surveys. Several members also put top executives on the spot with tough questions at State of The Times and stockholders meetings.
'For the first time in a long time, Times Guild members are taking a visible and active role in fighting for a fair contract.'
Not since the early '90s, when "What’s Fair Arthur" stickers were plastered throughout the old 43rd Street building, have Guild members shown this level of engagement and unity to win a decent contract. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. The contract management proposed in early February would freeze our pension plan and our pay, lengthen our work week without compensating us for it, replace our health care plan with a costlier and more limited one, eliminate differentials and slash virtually every provision in our contract that affects our quality of life.
These demands came as top management was lauding the "best journalists in the world," who won a multitude of awards for the paper and the Web site, and as the company's financial position began to improve. Despite the company’s steadily improving financial picture since the launch of the digital subscription plan last spring, the hideous retrogressions that we were asked to swallow remain on the bargaining table.
But there has been a glimmer of hope in the process. A Guild and management subcommittee, working for several months, has reached tentative agreements that set Newsroom and Web site job descriptions under a combined newspaper-digital contract, a longstanding goal of both parties. The panel also tentatively agreed to upgrade a handful of members and consolidate clerical duties.
The progress in the subcommittee talks gives us reason to believe that we may be able to come to an agreement with management on the entire collective bargaining agreement in 2012. But to get a fair contract, members will have to be even more engaged, active and vocal in the coming year. We’re facing an added unknown with the news of Janet Robinson’s pending departure and the prospect of dealing with a new president and CEO.
Our heightened level of engagement in 2011 would not have happened without the hard work and dedication of our co-workers on the negotiating team, the shop steward network and the Unit Council. Each and every one of those volunteers made the Guild's presence known in their areas. A special shout-out goes out to negotiating committee members Dan Gold, a copy editor in Culture, who has kept colleagues informed through his own reports, Donald McNeil, a reporter in Science, who was been relentless at spotlighting key issues for members, and Karen Grzelewski, our mobilizing captain, who was never without a Guild button or sticker to hand out to hungry activists. The business-side interests were always protected by the watchful eyes of Monica Johnson, Deborah Hanson-Bratton and Brian Leary.
The Guild negotiating subcommittee never could have made the progress it did without the help of John Napoli, customer service representative from COF, Erik Piepenburg, senior producer in Culture, and Mindy Matthews, copy editor on the National desk and our unit’s grievance chairperson. Her editing skills were invaluable during these talks, as were the negotiating skills of Local Representative Anthony Napoli. I would like to also thank New York Guild President Bill O'Meara for his leadership at the bargaining table and Secretary-Treasurer Peter Szekely for his savvy approach to bargaining.
Most importantly, I would like to thank each of you for your support in 2011. We’ll be counting on you once again in 2012. Enjoy the holidays and have a healthy New Year.