Friday, July 25, 2008

7/24 bargaining update

We're gotten word on the results of the latest bargaining session, and here's the abridged version:

The bargaining team resisted an effort to set up a two-tier scale-pay system, and received a pay-raise offer of 2 percent. Two percent falls short of the Guild's goal, but it's better than the zero percent we've been facing for more than a year.

However MediaNews continues to push for the right to outsource anyone, at any time, for any reason. The team is examining potential counter proposal language that would satisfy both the company and the Guild.

The bargaining team returns to negotiations July 31. In the meantime, they'll be meeting with the Press-Telegram unit on Monday at about 2 p.m., to discuss the talks, grievances, ULP's and community outreach efforts.

Stay tuned for more details, or just come to the meeting.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The setting Sun

We took our information campaign to the desert today with a visit to the The Sun in San Bernardino. It was great to meet Sun employees, and we'd like to thank everyone we had a chance to speak with.

We'll go back soon, but in the meantime, if we missed you and you'd like to reach us, please feel free to send us an email at

Inland Group's VP of Operations John Wartinger came outside to stand guard in the parking lot as we handed out flyers and talked with employees from the street. After 20 minutes of IE heat he moved closer, so we decided to introduce ourselves and say hello. That led to a short but interesting discussion. Everyone was polite but our conversation was at times lively, at times informative, and at the end, more than a little sad.

Mr. Wartinger said he doesn't believe The Sun needs a union because the paper is doing everything it can for its employees. Mr. Wartinger, a self-described former long-time typographical union member himself, expressed his faith in MediaNews, saying that everything the company has done by utilizing a smart business policy has been good for their newspapers and their employees. But he doesn't seem to believe that will be enough.

According to him, journalism isn't just facing a challenge — "It's dying."

We respectfully disagree. The fact that newspapers can still find an audience, much less continue to turn a profit, despite egregious cuts to both staffing and content, demonstrates just how vital quality journalism is and continues to be. There is still no replacement for the daily newspaper as a source of local community news, and people will always care deeply about the events that shape their day-to-day lives.

We're always interested in knowing what management is thinking, but our goal is to hear from the workers. We're glad to have talked with those we did. After all, we're interested in your ideas and concerns. So if you have thoughts you'd like to share, please pass them along.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Financial frustration

Since negotiations began almost 17 months ago, MediaNews negotiator Jim Janiga repeatedly insisted that they did not have the resources to offer any sort of wage increase at the Press-Telegram in the first year. The company has reluctantly proposed an across-the-board wage increase at the P-T of 1% the first year, while sticking to the proposal giving management the ability to subcontract out our work.

Economic bad times was the message delivered to the Long Beach City Council by Executive Editor Rich Archbold, who cited industry-wide problems, while deflecting criticisms over the company's decade-long practice of shrinking the number of staff through attrition and layoffs.

And Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram publisher Mark Ficarra said he planned on telling the council members individually the details of the company's fiscal position.

However, Ficarra has found the resources to provide wage increases at the non-union Daily Breeze. This is incredibly frustrating to staffers at the Press-Telegram, who view the move as insulting to their hard work.

Joe Segura,
P-T shop steward

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Get well soon Roz

We've just learned from Breeze staffer Chris Ledermuller that Roz Silver is taking sick leave due to a medical emergency. In his words:

Roz has been a tremendous asset to the Press-Telegram and Daily Breeze desks. Let's pull for her and wish her a fast and healthy recovery.

Well said. Get well soon Roz, here's hoping you make a quick recovery!

...on a related note, we'd like to wish a continued speedy recovery to Jody Collins at the Press-Telegram, who's recovering from her own recent medical mishap.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Making a point

A little lighthearted news today...

A lot of people are disturbed with the direction our industry is headed. There isn't much that the average reader can do if the local daily starts cutting staff and reducing content. Most people either kvetch, or cancel their subscription in protest.

Keith Hempstead isn't most people.

Hempstead, a subscriber to the North Carolina-based News & Observer, is suing the paper for "breach of contract," alleging that the newsroom layoffs at that paper violated the terms of his subscription.

"I hate to see what companies that run newspapers are doing to the product," Hempstead said. "The idea that taking the most important product and reducing the amount of news and getting rid of staff to me seems pointless to how you should run a newspaper business."

Of course, the odds of Hempstead winning the suit are slim to none (and slim is on his way out of town as we speak), but one wonders what would happen if enough subscribers took the same stand and brought a class-action suit?

The ugly truth is that even if every single N&O subscriber joined a class action suit, it probably wouldn't be enough to force the paper to change their ways - but you have to admit, it would be fun to watch a story like that unfold.

The biggest fallout is publicity, and there's little to suggest that the N&O - or any other paper for that matter - is willing to surrender profits in pursuit of public opinion. N&O executive editor John Drescher understands that the suit is essentially an empty gesture, and has taken a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach to the situation.

"We've had some really good papers recently, and they're worth more than the 36 cents a day that Mr. Hempstead is paying us," Drescher said.

"In fact, he owes me money," Drescher continued. "So when he gets a lawyer, he can work with my lawyer and figure out how much he's going to pay me for the excellent coverage he's been getting recently."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Go Guild, go forward

A few of our union people went over to Torrance today to introduce themselves to people there and hand out some contact information. Why not? There's been a lot of chatter here (and on other blogs) about the organizing win at BANG-EB and what it could mean for us here:

"Great news! We should try something like that down here. Let's have a LANG-wide guild...and soon."
Another anonymous poster wrote
"Ok so what is the plan? Sounds like the combination of leadership and members made the difference up there. I think they had a plan to start with. MediaNews has been in SoCal for more than a decade. I think its about time we moved forward and the guild leadership hopefully give 9400 members the confidence that there is a plan. Cause the days of separate contracts are over and the time for " One Big LANG " is here."
Responding, another reader wrote, "Why not? Let's do it!"

Under another post on the Bay Area campaign, these comments:
1. What is to keep all the Southern California LANG papers from unionizing? 2. Why on earth are we not doing it?
And this:
"The rallying cry at every single LANG newspaper should be WHAT DO WE WANT? UNION! WHEN DO WE WANT IT! NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
To be fair, there are a number of anti-union views expressed here, though perhaps not so much anti-union as frustrated or resigned thinking that the union can't do anything, as if it is some third-party entity.

Fact is, we understand there IS interest in the Guild out there. We're really glad about that, because we know that the more there are of us, the better our chances are of ensuring better jobs for us and better journalism for Southern California. We can only do that if we come from a position of strength. Unified, we can use our seat at the table to make a difference; to work with management to find the creative solutions to the huge challenges our company faces without sacrificing our fair wages, decent working conditions, more of our jobs and future opportunities.

We're not interested in bad-mouthing our company in a disrespectful, public way. But its no secret that the company's problems are indeed our problems because its demands for what we think are short-sighted concessions won't make our products better – or our work lives better.

The only way we can join in the decision-making processes that affect our lives is if we stand together as one. The Guild is only as strong as its members. We can be better. We can do this.

Are you ready?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Celebrating ‘Jamie’

Yesterday family, friends, coworkers and a few who never had the pleasure of knowing James personally, came together in celebration of James Melroy's life and time. They shared in the laughter and tears of the often funny, at times very emotional, tributes to the man James was and the great inspiration his memory will forever be to those whose lives he touched.

In closing, long-time family friend Steve Everett suggested that James would have wanted us to remember these four important things: Put God first, never let a day go by without telling family and friends how much they are loved, put others before yourself and finally, be sure to laugh. Often.

Amen. Rest in peace James. (Chris Ledermuller photo)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Melroy memorial fund established

Andres Cardenas tells us a James Melroy memorial fund has been established.

Here's the details:

Anyone wishing to make a donation can send a check payable to "The James Melroy Memorial Fund" and mail it to:

James Melroy Memorial Fund
c/o The Press-Telegram
300 Oceangate
Long Beach, CA 90844

Andres has been working nonstop in honor of James, and we'd like to take a moment to thank him for his unflagging loyalty and tireless service. Efforts like this make us more than just coworkers and associates. It makes us a family.

A few things ...

Negotiations for our new deal at the Press-Telegram continue Monday, July 7.

The San Jose Newspaper Guild has announced that a new 3-year pact with the Monterey Herald was tentatively agreed upon Tuesday. Details here.

Len will be out of town for the holiday and the rest of us have assignments needing our full attention, so light posting here ‘til Monday afternoon.

Have an enjoyable and safe holiday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Melroy memorial date set

We've just gotten word from Andres Cardenas on the details of James Melroy's memorial service. It will be held 11 a.m. this Monday, July 11th 7th, at Jordan High School in Long Beach. If you have the time, please stop by and pay your respects.