Thursday, February 26, 2009

Questions loom as Rocky falls

E.W. Scripps said it will shutter the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rocky Mountain News on Friday, ending 150 years of continuous operation and adding more than 200 union newsroom staffers to the unemployment rolls.

The move comes one day after union workers represented by the Denver Newspaper Guild reached a tentative agreement on wage and benefit concessions with a joint operating agency that publishes the Rocky and the MediaNews-owned Denver Post.

It remains unclear how the Scripps move will affect the Guild’s tentative agreement and the future existence of the DNA.

Citing declining revenues and the national economy, Scripps said it was forced to close the Rocky three months after putting the paper up for sale on Dec. 4, 2008, because a buyer had not been found.

Scripps, which bought the paper in 1926, said that although the paper will cease publishing Friday, employees will stay on the payroll through April 28.

Scripps officials told employees in the Rocky newsroom that the firm’s lawyers were discussing the move and its implications with union officials.

The DNA had sought concessions from six unions totaling $18 million to help the agency renegotiate $130 million in debt. Additionally, MediaNews sought $2 million in concessions at the Post. Two additional unions have yet to reach an agreement on the concessions.

The loss of the Rocky will leave the Post as the only major daily in Denver.

In the past decade the Rocky has been awarded 10 Pulitzer Prizes and many of the paper's departments, including the sports, business, and photo desks, have consistently been named some of the best in the nation.

The Rocky, first published 1859, is Colorado's oldest newspaper as is considered the state's longest continuously operated business.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LANG policy warning

We'd like to remind LANG employees that our employer, like many firms, has a company-wide policy in place restricting the use of company equipment to company business-related purposes only.

This includes, but is not limited to: phone systems, work e-mail, Unisys chat messaging systems, and internet browser software. In at least one recent incident, our employer has disciplined a Guild member for private comments made on the Unisys chat system. Previous incidents have also indicated that the company monitors website visits and traffic by employees.

Any use of LANG electronic equipment creates an electronic record that can be accessed at any time, and these records can be used to discipline employees for any perceived violation of the firm's equipment-use policy.

While our leadership is moving the discipline of its member to the grievance process, it is important for all employees to note this apparent shift toward enforcement of the equipment-use policy and take appropriate protective measures.

We also recommend that any personal communications, no matter how benign, be handled through personal equipment, such as personal laptop, cell phones or PDAs. It is also highly recommended that personal messages of any kind NOT be transmitted through your company-provided email account, as the employer may find any such personal use a violation of the company-wide policy.

If you have any questions regarding this situation, please feel free to contact Vicki Di Paolo at 562.259.9430.

Labor gains friend in D.C.

In a serious rebuke to the former Bush Administration's labor policies, California Rep. Hilda Solis was overwhelmingly confirmed today as U.S. Labor Secretary. Arguably a major turnaround for journalists and other working Americans, the decision came after Republican senators backed away from a threatened filibuster of Solis' nomination. Solis was confirmed today by a vote of 80-17.

This is perhaps one of the biggest developments and cause for hope among every American employee struggling for justice and equality. Solis has been a champion for workers' rights for the length of her political career.

The fight over her nomination stemmed from her vocal support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which has polarized national opinion on workers' rights to unionize.

Solis is a long-time supporter of the CWA and The Newspaper Guild and we look forward to working with her to improve the rights and working conditions of our current and future members.

"A Closer Look at the Employee Free Choice Act"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Welcome aboard!

Sorry for the lag in updates, this week has been crazy!

Lots of news to report. We'd like to welcome Keith Higginbotham to the team. Keith is a former Press-Telegram writer and all around smart guy. He'll be working to help facilitate communications between the units, and coordinate our various projects, community outreach, and other activities.

Keith and the rest of the team spent this week with representatives from the Bay Area News Group (BANG), who came down to learn a little about our operations, and share their insights on organizing within the MediaNews empire. As always strength in numbers is the name of the game, and we're building a closer relationship with our northern counterparts so everyone working in MNG will have the best, most comprehensive information and tools available to them.

Karl Fischer, Jeremiah Oshan, and Pia Basudev spent time with Lesley Phillips, Keith, and me as we visited LANG properties, spoke with members, and learned more about the issues facing Southern California journalists.

We're working on some exciting new projects, so stay tuned for more information, and please give Keith your support!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Questions about consolidation

MediaNews' copy desk consolidation plan is in effect, and more papers are potentially scheduled to move operations to San Gabriel very soon. As plans for a universal desk move forward, our goal is to ensure that our members are heard, and that this transition is as effective and trouble-free as possible. To meet that goal, we need your input.

We are reaching out to anyone on the copy desk, union or otherwise, about LANG's plans for a universal copy desk.

In order to learn how the plans will affect you, we've drafted this survey. Please click on the link and fill it out when you have the time.

The goal we hope to achieve from the survey results is it to develop a better understanding of copy editors’ concerns so we can help our Guild members there reach out to and better frame discussions with the non-union folks.

If your operations haven't been consolidated yet, what is your biggest concern?

If you're already working at the universal desk, what needs to be improved?

We know you have ideas that can make this work better, and create a more stable and effective work environment. With your help, we'll bring these ideas to the company and push for coordination to examine areas that can be improved or modified.

For instance, one of our Daily News CEs said that leaving a slot editor and designer at each paper to would help maintain local identity and ensure accuracy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Imagining the worst

It looks like the first big city in southern California to go naked without a daily paper won’t be Los Angeles.

So says noted L.A. writer and historian D.J. Waldie at Where We Are, a KCET blog focused on examining "LA’s twinned identities as urban and suburban," with deft and clear analysis.

Waldie calls the decline of MediaNews a case of "self-cannibalism" - which gets the point across with gruesome efficiency.

Although he doesn't dig too deeply, Waldie points out that pursuing "legacy values," has led to incessant cuts that bleed away a newspaper's value, until the axe falls on the final physical assets - property and equipment.

The PT (with most of the MediaNews Group) is making that final passage. The PT sold off its block-long building on Pine Avenue and moved to rented quarters in a nearby office tower (where the paper and its staff have continued to shrink).

It looks like the first big city in southern California to go naked without a daily paper won’t be Los Angeles.

We don't think it's quite that bleak yet, but there's no denying the dangers Waldie has pointed out. Without decisive action, the Press-Telegram is in real danger, and the city of Long Beach deserves better. But we continue to believe in newspapers, and the potentially bright future for responsible journalism that serves not only as a profitable business, but as a worthwhile civic institution that serves its readers and community with passion and commitment.

Friday, February 6, 2009

About those furloughs ...

We met with the Press-Telegram yesterday to sign our recently ratified contract that includes, among other provisions, a one year protection against layoff and 2% annual wage increases. That's the good news.

The not-so-good news, depending on one's perspective, is that a very intense discussion regarding the company's 5-day furlough mandate and its effects to the bargaining unit failed to produce an agreement acceptable to both sides at this time.

The furlough has been imposed at other non-union MediaNews properties and is now in place at Guild-covered papers where negotiations with the company resulted in an agreement. Guild and company representatives reached a furlough agreement earlier this week at our sister paper, the LA Daily News.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Labor Board hearing date set

We have received notice that, absent a settlement agreement between the Guild and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will begin hearings April 13 on our charges against the P-T stemming from it's March 2008 implementation of a reduction in force and unilateral transfer or sub-contracting out of our work to the non-union Daily Breeze that affected eighteen members of our bargaining unit without giving the union advance notice and without giving it the opportunity to negotiate the effects of the company's actions.

The Board's General Counsel will ask an NLRB administrative law judge to issue an order that requires the company to "pay interest on any backpay or other monetary awards ... " and "all other relief as may be just and proper to remedy the unfair labor practices alleged."