May 7, 2008

BANG publisher on union petition*

Jack Armstrong, publisher of the Bay Area Newspaper Group, LANG's Northern California cousin, sent out a memo Monday about efforts to unionize the Bay Area papers. He opposes the effort, stating that the organization "can best tackle the challenging issues we face in a union-free environment."

The complete memo follows:

Dear Colleagues:

The guild last week filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking an election on the union’s effort to be the exclusive bargaining agent for non-supervisory employees in the newsrooms of Bay Area News Group-East Bay.

Over the next several days we will deal with the NLRB over issues relating to the definition of the proposed bargaining unit and who is eligible to vote. We anticipate that the election most likely will be held in June.

You can expect to hear a lot from us before the election because this represents a potential turning point in the history of our newsrooms. The outcome will impact all of you, whether you vote or not, whether you favor or oppose the union, whether you feel strongly or not about the issue.

In the meantime, here are some things to keep in mind:

The outcome of the election will be determined by how a majority of those who vote cast their ballots – “yes” for union representation, “no” for a union-free environment.

It is important that each of you do your homework so you can make a studied decision. For example, we encourage you to examine closely what has happened in recent negotiations at union-organized newspaper companies in the Bay Area and across the country. It is important to know what the union actually has delivered for its members.

If you signed a union authorization card, that does not mean you are in any way obligated to vote for the union. (Some employees have said they signed a card, changed their minds and asked that the cards be returned; the union refused.)

The election will be by secret ballot. No one will ever find out how you voted.

Kevin Keane and I are opposed to unionization of our newsrooms. For good and ample reasons, we believe unionization would not be in your best interests or the best interests of our organization and our audience. We will explore those reasons in the weeks ahead.

Kevin and I are confident that on the day of the election a majority of you will agree with us, that our organization is poised to do great things and we can best tackle the challenging issues we face in a union-free environment.

John Armstrong, Publisher

*The union organizers have a letter of their own for Armstrong.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unions are useless. Take the PT and DN, for instance.

Mike Rappaport said...

Unions are useless only when they don't stand up for their members.

Look no further for the reason to all the job losses, outsourcing, stagnant wages, etc., in this country than the decline of unions.

Len Cutler said...

I agree, it's clearly in the employees' best interest to lay back and let MediaNews cut their pay, outsource their jobs, make them drive all over creation because management can't figure out what they're doing, and put up with every abuse and indignity that the millionaires club can devise in between trips to the golf course.

The question isn't whether or not the unions are going to make everything perfect, it's what happens if there's no union at all? And if you have any doubt that things would get much worse, you're living in a fantasy. That's not opinion, that's fact. You only have to look at the things management has tried to do (and failed because of union efforts) to make that point.

If unions are useless, then why is MediaNews so concerned about their workers organizing?

The argument against unions might make sense if the employees were being offered decent conditions, but as it stands, management is essentially asking for the workers to not only put up with substandard wages and working conditions, but to actively support their own destruction.

Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

If workers feel like they're treated fairly, there's no need for a union. But this is MediaNews. What other options do they have?

Anonymous said...

I guess you're right, Len. The Union is the reason why the PT is a striving newspaper, with a fully-staffed building right in the center of downtown Long Beach and with no layoffs in their past present or future...oh, wait...

A Guild member said...

Hey Gary! How about putting up the letter the staffers/organizers sent to Armstrong and editor Kevin Keane last Friday? http://www.mediaworkers.org/index.php?ID=5011

A union is only as strong as the members make it. It is not a third party. A union is an organization of employees that join together to protect its interests (quality journalism) and improve working conditions (wages, benefits , etc).

Employers have the legal right to determine staffing size, even with a union in place, but it's just easier to blame unions for job losses and outsourcing. Unions fight for, among other things, livable wages, reliable health insurance coverage and professional advancement opportunities. That all comes at a cost and though our industry is allegedly in peril, our employers are looking for the cheapest way forward. Newspaper companies are still make double-digit profits.

So if you have good wages, great benefits and opportunities ahead for promotion or advancement then no, you don't need a union. But MediaNews workers in Northern California do not have a voice and so they want a seat at the table when decisions are being made that impact their lives. That can only happen if they are union. Better to hang together or surely ...

The workers in Northern California are standing up together for their interests and their craft. Perhaps we should here too.

Mike Rappaport said...

I am amazed at how well big business and the Republican party have managed to demonize unions in the eyes of people who could clearly benefit from them.

Look no further than March, when Steve Lambert fired numerous good journalists with no thought for what it meant to their lives.

Len Cutler said...

So now it's the union's fault that MediaNews is gutting the newsrooms?

Kindly expatiate that one for me, if you please.

Anonymous said...

It's not the union's fault, and to be fair, Lean Dean's not the only guy gutting newsrooms.
It's just that El Dino's been doing it since the digital age meant Dolby, and his legendary greed has left him with an overextended business that's hemoraging faster than it can cut jobs or ship them overseas.
And some straight talk: BANG newsrooms need a union not because they're worried about quality journalism, they need it because as imperfect as it is, it's the only game in town. And John Armstrong and Kevin Keane, make no mistake, this is personal. This is about you and your incompetent company's lack of vision and failure to adapt to a changing environment. I speak for many of us when I say that you were both respected newsmen not that long ago. Now we don't even know you. You've chosen sides, and you're against us. So now we're against you. How about that?

Anonymous said...

MediaNews is a joke and their leadership couldn't find a race car at the Indy 500.

Although I am not a fan of unions it is clear that whatever roadblocks can be erected to fight leadership ignorance and possibly help the hard working rank and file is a good idea for this company.

You have to look long and hard to find a more incompetent group of leaders...wait...look at LANG.

Anonymous said...

Len, Okay, now I'm confused...

"So now it's the union's fault that MediaNews is gutting the newsrooms?," you ask.

If they Union can't stop this from happening - or at least make it happen in a not-so-cold-blooded way, then what is it's purpose?

Please enlighten me.

Len Cutler said...

Does anyone think that unions have ever had the power to tell management how to run their business?

The fact workers got severance and notice (or extra wages in lieu of notice, as happened at the PT) is 100% due to union efforts.

Like I already said, a union cannot turn a bad employer into a great one, but they can keep management from acting with absolute impunity.

Anonymous said...

"Does anyone think that unions have ever had the power to tell management how to run their business?"

NO, therefore not needed.

"The fact workers got severance and notice (or extra wages in lieu of notice, as happened at the PT) is 100% due to union efforts."

The same happen at jobs where there are no Unions.

End of story.

Len Cutler said...

The same happen at jobs where there are no Unions.

Not at MediaNews jobs. The union had to fight to get that money.

I'm still trying to figure out what your point is exactly, since you're making two separate arguments:

MediaNews will treat their employees fairly whether there's a union or not.

MediaNews is going to abuse their employees either way, and there's nothing the union can do about it.


Which one describes your position?

Anonymous said...

Len,
You better than anyone else know unions are useless.
If I was you I'd ask for my money back.

Len Cutler said...

Shall I assume that means you can't answer the question?

Anonymous said...

One of these days I'll get myself registered to avoid confusion...

In the meantime,

I think there's a couple of anonymous posters to this blog - including myself.

I'm the anonymous that posted:
1) "Unions are useless. Take the PT and DN, for instance."

AND

2) I guess you're right, Len. The Union is the reason why the PT is a striving newspaper, with a fully-staffed building right in the center of downtown Long Beach and with no layoffs in their past present or future...oh, wait..."

AND


3) "Len, Okay, now I'm confused...

"So now it's the union's fault that MediaNews is gutting the newsrooms?," you ask.

If they Union can't stop this from happening - or at least make it happen in a not-so-cold-blooded way, then what is it's purpose?

Please enlighten me."


Now, the point I'm trying to make here is that Unions are absolutely worthless. MediaNews has gotten away with these injustices regardless of whether there's a Union or not.

The only difference between unionized workers and non-unionized workers is who pays Union fees.

Len Cutler said...

I find it supremely convenient that the anonymous poster is distancing himself/herself from some of the posts here...if you didn't write the one about benefits going out without union assistance, can I assume you don't agree with it?

As for the rest, I'd point out that when the PT did it's layoffs, they failed to give two weeks notice - and attempted to avoid paying the extra wages that were negotiated by the union. It was only after the union stood up and demanded that MediaNews honor that obligation that the workers got that money.

So no, it's not the same thing.

Kris Hanson - Press Telegram said...

I find it amazing that people like anonymous can sit and bash a collective group of workers for seeking better working conditions and decent pay. I guess in anonymous' world, that's an unreasonable and "absolutely worthless" goal. Weak.

A Guild member said...

Re: "The fact workers got severance and notice (or extra wages in lieu of notice, as happened at the PT) is 100% due to union efforts."

and the response:

"The same happen [sic] at jobs where there are no Unions."

Sometimes you benefit from the standards we fight for:

"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts." — Molly Ivins

Unions are useless? Not so.

"History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them." — Martin Luther King Jr.

Anonymous said...

They say you can't argue about Politics and Religion...let's add "Unions" to that...believe what you want to believe....

Len Cutler said...

I'm not concerned with what you believe - it's the "why" that interests me. If your opinion is based on a rational set of evidence (and I'm sure there are valid reasons out there, depending on the circumstances and what your individual priorities might be) then so be it. You might even change my mind on the subject.

But if you can only say "they're useless" with no facts or evidence, and offer sound-bite platitudes instead of facts, and snappy one-liners instead of logic, then what you've got isn't a rational belief. It's based on faith. Being anti-union is your religion.

There's nothing wrong with that, and I'm certainly not going to try and convince you that you've chosen the wrong faith. To each his own. But I think it's important to acknowledge that when pressed, there was no valid argument against unions to be found here.

Anonymous said...

I know of a certain PT Web producer who got canned despite being an adamant defender of the Union....

Len Cutler said...

No logic, just another dig from an anonymous poster. Is there anyone who expected the anti-union crowd to behave any better?

Anonymous said...

I know the web producer you're talking about (and your use of the job title gives you away chief - I'm not surprised, but it's still disappointing) and I bet you know the circumstances behind his dismissal, which go way beyond the union.

You probably also know those details shouldn't be disclosed, because embarrassing LANG in that way might violate some sort of legal confidentiality requirement.

It's too bad LANG has to pay your ex-web producer all that money, but he can thank the union for helping him get it.

Anonymous said...

There's no difference between union and nonunion workers?

Not according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

http://www.workinglife.org/wiki/index.php?page=Union+vs.+Nonunion%3A+Wages+(2004)

Anonymous said...

Straight from the government report.

"In 2007, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $863 while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $663."

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

A guild member said...

The P-T Web producer was not "canned"; he was laid off; one of many staffers (union and non-union) who lost jobs in the end-of-the-month February staff purge at LANG.

Len Cutler said...

Thanks for the support guys, but I'm not worried about people that can only take potshots when they're hidden in the shadows.

The refusal to put a face with the words speaks volumes, especially when it comes from a journalist.

Anonymous said...

I don't see anyone from management posting with their name.

I also see no problem in posting under anonymous.

Seems to follow the same logic as a protected source.

If you were an employee of this group, would you post your name?

a guild member said...

At least one Guild member currently employed by MediaNews has commented here using his name. (I do not work for MN.) Fear of the employer is a counterproductive emotion and unecessary when one works under a collectively-bargained contract that levels the playing field between employer and employees.

Anonymous said...

disagree that management can't retaliate against an employee even with an agreement. Who chooses who gets what assignments, from news to sales etc.

there are many ways to make an employee pay the consequences for speaking up that will never see the light of day.

of course, medianews wouldn't do that!

Anonymous said...

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