Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Daily News[room] launch

We'd like to announce the launch of a new blog for the LADN unit, the Daily News[room]. As they begin negotiations, members of the DN bargaining unit will be able to keep up with everything related to Woodland Hills and our efforts there. Keep an eye on the DNr for more in the coming weeks...

Mandatory furloughs for management, nonunion employees * **

*Headline changed per comments

MediaNews has just announced that non-union employees at all California properties will be required to take one-week unpaid furlough by the end of March, in order to lower expenses. Managers will have to take two weeks unpaid leave within the same period.

The company is interested in implementing furloughs for their union employees but such a move has to be negotiated. The company cannot impose a furlough without first speaking to the Guild.

Obviously the company is in bad financial shape, and we're interested in anything that will help preserve journalism in Southern California. Our first concern is the well being of our members, and we welcome the chance to discuss the company's needs, and how they can accomplish their goals without unfairly impacting their employees.

If you have any concerns or questions on this issue, please feel free to contact a shop steward or email us at

* The Southern California Media Guild has released a statement in response to MediaNews' announcement.

** Chris Berry, Online Editor for the Press-Telegram and Daily Breeze, said he's not aware of any extra furlough for managers, and believes MediaNews is only asking for a one week furlough, in line with the rest of the newsroom. We're trying to confirm our original information, and if we get any details they'll be posted here as we get them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Company moves quickly to cut circulation staff

We were notified by members in the circulation department that they were informed that eight district advisors will be laid off, effective February 23. (The ratified contract provides a one-year moratorium on editorial layoffs.)

There are two District Manager positions available at the non-union Daily Breeze in Torrance and the laid off employees may apply for transfer to those open positions.

Our members have asked about their prospects at the Breeze: will their experience guarantee them a slot? The answer unfortunately is no. Although the Breeze may consider experience as part of hiring, as an unprotected workplace, the company is under no obligation to honor seniority.

The news of the layoff does not come as a surprise to circulation workers. We first received notice four years ago that the company desired to subcontract the Press-Telegram circulation department. We worked very hard to negotiate the company away from its position. But throughout negotiations, it became increasingly obvious the company intended to put its plan into effect. In the face of the declining economy, the company continues to make cuts and consolidations across LANG and implement cost saving measures like subcontracting out the P-T's circulation department.

In the end, the company refused to extend the editorial moratorium on layoffs to circulation. Although it's no substitute for their jobs, and an insult to the men and women that have given decades of service assuring timely delivery of the P-T, as the company's determination to eliminate these jobs became apparent, we redoubled our efforts to secure the best possible terms of lay-off benefits for our colleagues in that department, and hopefully those benefits will help our colleagues in these difficult times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Contract Approved

Well, it's official.

The bargaining unit approved the contract proposal with a unanimous vote that brought out an overwhelming majority of bargaining unit members.

We'll have more information later, but for now, thanks to everyone for participating, and their patience in getting to this point.

Guild member Pamela Hale-Burns turns in her ballot to rep Vicki Di Paolo for the contract ratification at the Arco Towers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't forget to vote!

Just a reminder - the contract ratification vote is tomorrow, Jan. 20, at the following locations:

- Motz Station - 6:00 AM - 7:30 AM Tuesday January 20

- Signal Parkway Station - 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM Tuesday January 20

- 300 Oceangate - 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM Tuesday January 20 - 15th floor

We've gotten a few questions regarding the contract. An email with clarifications and more more detailed information has been sent out to members. If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to contact Vicki Di Paolo at 562.260.8378, or send us an email at

Thanks, and we'll see you tomorrow!

TNG-CWA president sends congratulations

My congratulations to the bargaining committee and everyone who worked to make this happen - we all know there's much work left to be done, but I think you've made a smart move and bought some critical time. — Bernard Lunzer, TNG-CWA Pres.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Labor Board approves charges against MediaNews*

We know many of you have been waiting eagerly for news about the litigation we filed against the company after last March's layoffs and copy editor/designer transfers to the Daily Breeze. Well, here it is:

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that its investigation into two of our charges found sufficient merit to go to a full hearing unless the company comes to a settlement with the union.

1. The Board's investigation reveals sufficient evidence to show that the Employer unilaterally eliminated departments and jobs by transferring unit work to another employer, resulting in the substitution of non-union employees to perform the same work; and unilaterally eliminated a sports desk reporter position. The NLRB's investigation found "sufficient evidence to show that the Employer subcontracted out unit work in the design and copy-editing departments."

2. The Employer "failed and refused to supply the Union with requested information."

The company has been notified of the NLRB complaints. MediaNews must either negotiate a settlement with the Guild on those complaints, or it will have to answer allegations on its behavior at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. To avoid a long and expensive hearing, we hope to reach a settlement agreement with the employer soon.

Other charges, some of which our lawyers felt had strong supporting evidence, did not fare as well with the Board. While we could appeal that decision, the appeals process would delay our successful charges, and we would not gain any additional benefit in terms of resolution, so our only real benefit would be in the "Gotcha!" moment of having another charge against the employer, and we think that's not worth the extra delay.

We know this has been a long time coming, and we appreciate the patience you've shown as our efforts to hold MediaNews accountable made their way through the administrative process. These successful charges demonstrate our commitment to seeing things through, no matter how long it takes.

These board charges could not have happened without the support of our members who stood by their convictions to give testimony and demand equality for themselves and their colleagues. Without their courage, none of this would be possible. Our thanks go out to each and every member who helped make this possible.

*Clarification: In order to avoid a hearing (date set by the Board), the company must negotiate with the union a fair settlement agreement for those impacted by the company's illegal maneuvering. Former P-T staffers who were either transfered to the Daily Breeze or laid off in March, 2008, can call Vicki Di Paolo at the Guild office (562-259-9430) for more information.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

At last!

After almost two years, it's finally over.

Our bargaining team announced today that a tentative agreement has been reached in negotiations with MediaNews' Press-Telegram, and all that's left now is for members to review and approve the plan.

The proposed contract calls for a 2/2/2 wage increase (two percent at ratification, and subsequent annual raises of another two percent), and perhaps most importantly, gives Guild-covered newsroom employees a one-year moratorium on layoffs. Given industry conditions at the moment, obtaining such a guarantee is no small accomplishment.

After a year, if employees are laid off, the team secured additional benefits and rights for our members, including 60 days advance notice (or pay in lieu of), additional severance, and extended health and tuition-reimbursement coverage.

This settlement was a long time coming, and clearly this could not have happened without the patience and support of our members. It wasn't always easy, but it was always important.

Additionally, political and civic leaders, advertisers, and everyday readers stepped forward during these long months to stand with us. We'd like to thank you all individually, but the list is staggering. This truly was a community effort, and the support we received has been invaluable.

Guild rep Vicki Di Paolo sent the following:

Words cannot express the respect I have for this bargaining team. Over the past two years Joe Segura, Kris Hanson and Steve Carr have gone above and beyond to do everything they could to secure this contract for Guild members. They have spent countless hours at my kitchen table planning strategy and preparing proposals. Although we have had our differences we were always able to come to the same page and move forward. This unity contributed greatly to our ability to get the best contract language we could have reached. I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll simply say thank you guys, you're the best. - Vicki

Monday, January 12, 2009

Daily Grill farewell pics

Sorry for the delay folks, but here's some pics from the farewell party for Scott, Joe, and Brenda last week at the Daily Grill.

Even though it's nice to see everyone together, and we're grateful for the reminder that good people aren't diminished by bad times, posting pictures and stories about layoffs is getting pretty exhausting. When you reflect on just how much the newsroom has changed in under a year, the difference is absolutely shocking.

Here's someone else affected by MediaNews' decision, Scott's son.

Best wishes on your future success guys.

Opportunity amidst the chaos

BALTIMORE – CWA media unions met last weekend to study industry restructuring and discuss opportunities to build our power during this time of great turmoil. The event brought together leaders from the Newspaper Guild, The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, and the Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Sector, all sectors of the Communications Workers of America.

Check out stories and podcast at California Media Workers Guild.

Luther Jackson, San Jose Newspaper Guild executive officer, above, reports out subcommittee findings on the biggest threats to MediaNews and Hearst survival and the challenges and opportunities they pose to the Guild.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Stand with us

The continued dismantling of Long Beach's paper of record should concern every member of our community. We are witnessing the destruction of a civic institution that has served the people of Long Beach for over a century, and now the reporting of community events that are important to readers is in jeopardy.

The Press-Telegram's newsroom staff has been reduced from 101 in 2003 to 26 in 2008 and yesterday, the employer eliminated three more dedicated, talented employees, leaving just 10 reporters and 4 photographers to cover our city, a place that half a million people call home. Over the last two years, while in contract negotiations employees have worked without a raise, and under the constant threat of losing their jobs.

In these uncertain times, the experience and industry knowledge of our members is essential to P-T readers. We believe that quality need not be sacrificed on the altar of short-term profits, and that newspaper efficiencies can be achieved with locally-based experts rather than inexpensive and inexperienced stand-ins with little or no connection to our community and its citizens.

We need readers, advertisers, civic leaders, and city and community representatives to continue to stand with us and demand that the P-T provide quality local news that serves the needs of our city, and honor the commitment of its staff by settling its contract with its unionized workers that provides job security and decent wages.

~ Vicki Di Paolo
Vice President, Southern California Media Guild/CWA Local 9400

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Covering the layoffs

The District Weekly has an article on our layoffs.

So does, including a statement from Guild Rep Vicki Di Paolo. has the story too.

Body Count* **

We're saddened to report that the company's latest round of Press-Telegram layoffs have eliminated Joe Dickson, Scott Smeltzer, and Brenda Duran.

Joe Dickson was a longtime LANG employee. As an online content producer, he worked at several different LANG papers over the years. I personally worked with Joe during my time at the P-T, and I know just how talented, dedicated, and hardworking he is. With Joe, the company had a skill set much deeper than his paycheck implied, and they won't be able to replace him at even twice the cost. Sacrificing his contribution to the newspaper was a monumentally foolish decision.

Scott Smeltzer worked for the P-T since 2007. An award winning photographer, Smeltzer is also the sole breadwinner for his wife and infant child, and although we're certain a photographer of his caliber will have no trouble meeting this challenge, the news is clearly tragic. Our hearts go out to his family.

Photographer Steve Carr shared the following:

Scott was just a great guy, and an amazing photographer. He's somebody who always upbeat. He'll be greatly missed. It seems like the photo dept is always getting hit, and this makes us feel like an even bigger target. Scott will be a great asset wherever he ends up."
Brenda Duran was a recent addition to the Press-Telegram, but made friends and earned the respect of her colleagues quickly.

Reporter Kelly Puente emailed this:
Brenda Duran was the last hire at the P-T. She worked at the P-T for about six months before she was laid off today. A USC grad, she's worked at US Weekly and the North County Times. She was the night reporter and assigned the cities of Norwalk and Downey. She was doing a kickass job and we'll miss her.
Duran's layoff shows just how tightly-knit the Press-Telegram is. No matter who they are or how long they've been with the company, every loss is felt. There are no expendable employees. Especially today. We wish Brenda nothing but the best.

A staff meeting has been announced for the remaining P-T employees today at 3:30, presumably to explain the company's action.

As reported earlier by Gary Scott, Guild-covered colleagues at the Daily News were also laid off today.

Tyrone Harris, editorial assistant
Gregg Miller, graphics
Patrick O'Connor, editorial cartoonist
Steve Dilbeck, sports columnist
Jammie Salugabang, features copy editor/online
Stewart Slavin, copy/slot editor
Simone Trimm, editorial assistant in features

Additionally, Roger Vargo, non-union photo/pre-press staffer was let go.

Today marks the latest tragic round of temporary cost-cutting, and saddest of all, few (if any) believe that decimating the newsroom will have any lasting benefit for the company. Indeed, many fear that further attacking the content will only drive more readers away, and precipitate further layoffs.

* Our colleagues in Torrance report that Miguel Lopez is among the laid off employees at the Breeze. A former P-T staffer and constant friend to many, we know the staff at both the Breeze and in Long Beach will miss him. Other known Torrance layoffs are photographer Bruce Hazelton, Andrea Hayashi, admin asst. for the feature dept., and Linda Mancini from advertising.

** Here's some info from today's staff meeting:

12 total were cut from the Press-Telegram, and approximately 15 from the Daily Breeze. In addition, the pending San Gabe consolidation is expected to cull another 12 from the Breeze and Daily News.

As a result of the layoffs, staff in Long Beach is small enough that the operations will be consolidated onto the 14th floor (the company used three floors as little as two years ago).

In the meeting, a staffer asked Rich Archbold if the company has a plan for the future, and where the company is headed. We're told he had no answer to either question.

Morale is understandably low.

A redesign for all of LANG is in the works, and plans are to unveil the new look in a few weeks.

A farewell gathering for our colleagues has been scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at the Daily Grill across the street. Stop by and buy the guys a drink, or just wish them well. We hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Swinging the axe again

More bad news...

Correspondence received today from the company informs us that layoffs are indeed planned for LANG, effective tomorrow.

According to an email sent by Guild rep Vicki Di Paolo, ten employees have been targeted, eight bargaining unit members and two managers.

I'm sorry to report that we received correspondence from the company today, notifying us that there will be additional layoffs tomorrow, Thursday January 8, in the editorial departments at both the Daily News and the Press Telegram. At the Daily News a total of seven positions will be cut, five from the bargaining unit and two managers. At the Press Telegram three positions will be eliminated, all from the bargaining unit.

The decision is reportedly in response to declining revenues.

The Guild has requested a meeting with the company to discuss the impact and effects of these layoffs, and for information regarding their decision, and how the remaining staff will handle the workload. Although the layoffs appear to meet the company's contractual obligations, we will determine if any violations have occurred, and if so we will file a grievance immediately.

To assure that no contractual violations have occurred, I ask those of you who receive notice to please contact me via email or my cell at 562-260-8378.

Like most of you, we received the news with a mixture of sadness and anger. How can continued attacks on the beleaguered staff possibly have any positive effect on the company's future?

Our heart goes out to everyone affected by these layoffs, and we want to offer our sincere condolences, and an assurance that we will continue to fight for our remaining members.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Consolidation blues

The rumors about copy desk layoffs appear to be true.

Announcements have been made in multiple newsrooms today that a plan to merge all LANG copy desks into a central desk at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, is tentatively scheduled for February or March and 2008 LANG-offered buyout options will remain in effect: one week of pay per year of service up to six years plus three months COBRA and a promise not to contest unemployment.

The terms of layoffs/buyouts are subject to negotiation for Guild-covered staffers.

Information is sporadic at the moment, but we've been contacted by employees at three LANG papers so far, each providing similar information.

One source tallies the total personnel for the combined desks at 88, and suggests that the company seeks to cut approximately 20% of that number for the new operations.

Another rumor floating around is that the Guild is dissolving its LANG units. That much we can promise is absolutely false. There are NO such plans, and we have zero intention of abandoning our members now.

Hard facts are scarce at the moment, so we're actively seeking out information and details on the plans. If you have anything to add, please contact us at

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hopeful signs are on the horizon

This might not be obvious, but there are a lot of things to be optimistic about right now. At least, according to this editorial from the New York Times.

While they're not specifically talking about journalism, the author has a point.

Even before the economy bottomed out, our industry was under siege. Politically this has been one of the worst periods for middle-class workers, including journalists, in quite some time.

One of the biggest problems has been the pro-business National Labor Relations Board, the government body responsible for adjudicating disputes between employees and management.

The reality of NLRA enforcement falls far short of its goals. Many workers who try to form and join trade unions to bargain with their employers are spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired, deported or otherwise victimized in reprisal for their exercise of the right to freedom of association...In the United States, labor law enforcement efforts often fail to deter unlawful conduct. When the law is applied, enervating delays and weak remedies invite continued violations. Any employer intent on resisting workers’ self-organization can drag out legal proceedings for years, fearing little more than an order to post a written notice in the workplace promising not to repeat the unlawful conduct and grant back pay to a worker fired for organizing....As a result, a culture of near impunity has taken shape in much of U.S. labor law and practice. Human Rights Watch: “Unfair Advantage: Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States under International Human Rights Standards”
Right now, the penalties for employers that engage in employee intimidation and retaliation amounts nothing more than a slap on the wrist. It's probably not a coincidence that union membership has gone down significantly in recent history, just as it shouldn't be surprising that harassment, intimidation, and retaliation have become commonplace for employees involved in union activity. 25% of companies fire workers involved in union activity. What do they have to lose?

The statistics have proven that unionized workers earn more, and receive better benefits than their non-union counterparts. Yet union membership is down to just 8% of the workforce.

So what's the fix? Well along with the appointment of a more balanced NLRB, which will help shape the economic reality for US workers, there's also the Employee Free Choice Act, which addresses some of the most egregious liberties taken by the business community and restores equality to American labor.

Perhaps most importantly for LANG journalists, there's the appointment of California Congresswoman Hilda Solis as President Obama's Labor Secretary. Solis is a familiar face to many at the Guild and CWA, well known for her unstinting support for California workers and journalists.

None of this specifically addresses the problems facing the newspaper industry. But efforts like these will have a significant impact on the US economy, the primary reason for our declining circulation and advertising, according to industry experts. Also, there's no question that providing strength and vitality to our newsrooms will mean better journalism.

That's not to say any of this will be easy. It won't. But few things of lasting importance come easily or without sacrifice. We're facing a long and difficult road back to equality. But change has never been more essential that it is right now.

Let's get started.

Toward a new and better year

A Message from Bernie Lunzer, President, The Newspaper Guild of the Communications Workers of America:

A Time of Change

The Newspaper Guild was founded in a similar time of change – the early and mid-1930s. It was a time of desperation and unemployment.

Good journalism was not a priority. Newspapers, however, were still the dominant channel for information distribution. Guilds developed all over America because workers understood it was their best hope to change things for the better. Employers fought against organizing, but the workers persevered.

Now we are at a new turning point, where even the term "newspaper" is an anachronism. But whatever form it takes, information will be gathered and disseminated. Will it be credible, well-researched information that makes our culture stronger, better, more honest? Or will it be entertainment and shock reporting, always chasing the newest, most provocative child's death or celebrity meltdown. Will workers be valued and paid, or will they be disposable, contingent and exploited?

The current captains of our industry have failed. They did not predict where the internet would take us. They did not invest in new skills, and new technologies. They worked for the profit margin of the next quarter – which they thought should be somewhere around 25 percent. When profits fell below that, they slashed jobs and the quality of our work.

Others saw the possibilities of free access to our product and linked their revenue streams to search. Our work was plundered by them for profit. Still others saw the possibilities for new ad vehicles and started up the ventures we should have and could have, but for lack of vision.

The luckiest owners pushed their last burst of creativity into selling our businesses and getting out while the getting was good. The debt that was left in their wake is now doing untold damage to the crippled industry left behind.

So now we are presented with the most serious challenge of all: While the ground shifts under our feet and we are overworked, we must fight for creative solutions and for the heart and soul of our industry. This, while we have been redefined as a commodity to be slashed by our owners, over and over.

Can we do this?
Can we find solutions that preserve quality information and good jobs?
Is there enough time?

We don't have any choice, and we don't know how long it will take. But we'll take the fight.

This business must be reinvented. It's already started and it's all around us. We must act while our brands and our Web sites still have value. This will require workers working together in extraordinary ways. We can be major players in reshaping the news and information industry, and ensuring that our work is compensated and that we are valued.

Bringing the front-line worker into the business plan is a key ingredient for those businesses that hope to survive. It will also mean stripping out unnecessary management positions. They are not only expensive, but they actually stand in the way of innovation. Healthy organizations will be diverse, worker-focused and nimble. Successful organizations will forge a new relationship with workers.

Why should a union lead the way? What's needed right now are democratic, value-oriented workplaces. They must be efficient and tap the greatest potential of their workforce. People do their best work when they really care about their product. A union environment is the way to ensure the promises necessary to make this kind of enterprise work. Owners, managers and editors who want success should welcome high-participation, unionized information workers.

Why are we that union? CWA has brought together the best, most-democratic traditions of broadcast, Web and print journalism by joining with NABET, the ITU and The Newspaper Guild. It is time to tap the potential of our groups to organize a new kind of workforce: highly-trained, highly-motivated and value-driven.

Rather than give up in the face of the current crisis, we can seize its potential. We represent professional journalists, salespeople, technicians and graphic designers. We represent the largest group of unionized web professionals. We understand the new work and the new worker.

We have the building blocks. But we can no longer simply rely on the current owners and managers to know what is best for our organizations. We must insist on building the new future together – with our ideas, at the table, as equals. If we're asked to give up wages to ensure survival, we must demand in return to have a voice in how the business goes forward. The information industry can be rebuilt. Our members have the best ideas for how to rebuild it. I also believe we can reach out to other workers in the industry and be the most credible, driving force for a new media industry in America.

There's every reason to have hope. But the time is now for us to act and take on that responsibility. Everything we know and care about started with an idea, and was built on hard work and shared values. We can do this.
From the TNG Web site

Retirement savings figures

This report by the Lake County News documents the numbers behind MediaNews' recent announcement that funds-matching will be suspended for the indefinite future.

We're getting similar accounts from groups across the country, so the move appears to be company-wide, although that remains speculation at this point.

But assuming that the plan affects all MediaNews properties without contractual language guaranteeing funds-matching participation, the Lake County News lists the company's 2007 expenses at $5.8 million for 11,880 employees. How many of those employees are unionized or under some other form of contractual protection is not known.